Top Ten Movies: 1969

My Night at Maud's

I always get a kick out of watching characters eat in movies. It’s a little pleasure of mine to observe them actually behave like human beings. Talking over one another, fidgeting with their fingers, having to write something down because they won’t remember it. And, you know, locking doors, since everyone always seems to barge into houses and cars without any bit of a struggle. When a movie like Éric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s comes along, it takes it one step further. Here we have characters that actually think. And I don’t mean iterate lines that will move the plot along, but people that sit down and talk. They talk about love, they talk about religion, they talk about sex. Anything that comes to mind. One leaves for the night, another asks to spend it at the hostess’ house because it’s far too late to drive home. You know, stuff that actually could happen in the real world. And when the story grows from this source, something unique occurs. You’re immersed in the characters’ ideologies, beliefs, fears, and not strictly on their actions. That becomes the driving force of the movie. Them, their discourse, the stuff that you connect with people in the real world about. It’s quite the experience watching, something that I could definitely go on and on about like any of Rohmer’s characters so I better stop it here. As for the rest of the year, simply one of the best.

1. My Night at Maud’s (Éric Rohmer)
2. Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin)
3. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)
4. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville)
5. La Femme infidèle (Claude Chabrol) and Z (Costa-Gavras)
6. La Piscine (Jacques Deray)
7. Kes (Ken Loach)
8. The Honeymoon Killers (Leonard Kastle)
9. Fellini Satyricon (Federico Fellini) and The Damned (Luchino Visconti)
10. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Sidney Pollack)

I had previously written that I’d get to 1995 next. Well… I lied. I listened to The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shleter last night as I was driving home late from work and it had suddenly occurred to me just how dark and haunting the Maysles brothers documentary really is. Unlike say Monterey Pop or Woodstock, there’s something about that concert at Altamont that captured the fringes of human behavior on the brink of some sort of implosion; that tether line that could always snap at any minute, and did! It’s pretty freakin’ unforgettable.

I also have to hand it to a lot of French stuff that won me over films like Midnight Cowboy and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, brilliant movies nevertheless. But I couldn’t look past the luridly bizarre love quadrangle in Deray’s La Piscine, or Melville’s well orchestrated and tonally subdued WWII drama; the latter all the better because it lacks the self-righteoussness that practically comes as an instruction manual with movies dealing with that daunting war. Then there’s Fellini and Visconti on steroids, which in my mind conjures up an image of a midget couple making love on top of a Pollock painting. Yeah, I know. I need help.

Next time, 1995. I promise.