10 cinema gems from 1972
#10 – Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, John Carradine & Lou Jacobi.
Here’s something a little different for you.
More of a series of comedic skits along the lines of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life than a film with a narrative, this Woody Allen classic answers seven curious questions about love-making in… let’s say an interesting fashion.
It’s full to the brim of Allen’s silly humour, send-ups of classic films, memorably wacky lines and generally a whole lot of R-rated absurdity. To make it even more hilarious, it’s based on a real-to-life sex manual by a physician that is not satirical in the slightest.
So how does Woody Allen adapt a doctor’s instructive guide to sex into a comedy movie? Pretty well, actually. Check it out.
#9 – Avanti!
Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills & Clive Revill.
To me, this film has two personal claims to greatness: it’s one of the few films I discovered before the Broadway play, and it’s one of a select group where the synopsis convinced me this film would be hilarious.
Avanti! follows an industrialist and a shop-girl: the children of a couple who were having a secret love affair when they were suddenly killed in a car accident. When each of them comes to identify the bodies, you guessed it, they meet and begin an unlikely romance.
It’s charming as a comedy, a brilliant concept and perfectly executed. It’s full to the brim of moments that will make you giggle, and to its credit, managed to pull a number of awards during its run, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor to Jack Lemmon.
Avanti! is a load of fun, and it’s made all the better by its Italian influences, which give it a charmingly European vibe.
#8 – What’s Up, Doc?
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal & Kenneth Mars.
Ah, screwball comedy. It’s such an underperforming subgenre.
Comedy has been taking this list by storm so far, and this is considered one of the all-time greats. Featuring an ensemble cast of goofballs, What’s Up, Doc? can’t promise Bugs Bunny, but it can promise a lot of brilliant stupidity.
Barbra Streisand is excellent in her role – this is arguably her greatest performance on film, and it was featured in various collectors’ box sets of her career.
If you want 94 minutes of live-action Looney Tunes, this is the film for you.
#7 – Jeremiah Johnson
Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Robert Redford, Will Geer & Allyn Ann McLerie.
This one is a brilliant mix of genres and a real roller coaster ride.
While it labels itself as a revisionist Western, Jeremiah Johnson is also comedic on a brilliantly satirical level. Following Mexican War veteran Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford), who sets out to become a mountain man in the Rocky Mountains, this film is a nice blend between the freezing survival film style of The Revenant and a gut-busting comedy.
While being funny at times, this film is also raw, forceful and beautiful. It manages to capture a lot of emotion in a series of stellar performances, particularly by Redford.
And who knows? You might recognise a meme or two along the way if you have a keen eye.
#6 – Solaris
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Donatis Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk & Juri Jarvet.
Don’t be fooled by the old-fashioned and slightly strange trailer. There’s not a lot on YouTube for this one.
Solaris is a masterpiece of Russian cinema. Based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem, it follows an interstellar journey to study an oceanic planet called Solaris. It features a crazy electronica score and even incorporates some Bach.
Director Andrei Tarkovsky is considered a pioneer of film, and this was his attempt to bring emotion to the science fiction genre. It undoubtedly succeeds. This film is terrifying, emotionally chilling and eerily beautiful.
If you’re a science fiction fan and you prefer something like 2001: A Space Odyssey over Star Wars, then this will be right up your alley. Find yourself a copy however you can.
#5 – Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Directed by Werner Herzog. Starring Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo & Ruy Guerra.
Mix Russian and German cinema, and we have an international cult-classic based loosely on the historic figure of Aguirre.
The legendary Spanish soldier (Klaus Kinski) leads a group of conquistadors down the Amazon River in search of El Dorado, the seven cities of gold. This is a story of madness and folly that Shakespeare and Joseph Conrad would be proud of.
While it takes a minimalist approach to its story, Aguirre, the Wrath of God focuses on staggering performances that help to explore the insanity of a legend. As Aguirre slips further and further from stability, the Spaniards become more and more desperate. It’s haunting, the directorial vision is incredibly intricate, and the performances are stellar.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t received very well in Germany upon its release, but it has since become renowned as a classic around the world.
#4 – Deliverance
Directed by John Boorman. Starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds & Ned Beatty.
This is one that I must precede with a warning: It’s not for the faint of heart in the slightest.
The film is a thriller that follows four Georgia businessmen who set out on a canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River. You just know that it’s a visceral thriller when it’s renowned for two famous scenes: the silly four-minute banjo act above and a notorious and graphic male-on-male assault scene.
Deliverance is a film that will engross you, and yet, you’ll watch it through the gaps in your fingers. It explores violence and trauma in one of the most brutally honest portraits of the old American South you’ll ever see, and I’m not just talking about the banjos.
I can’t emphasise enough that you should watch this film. It’s a landmark picture and a masterpiece of cinema. Just… maybe don’t watch it with your parents or on a first date, huh?
#3 – Cabaret
Directed by Bob Fosse. Starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York & Helmut Griem.
Ah, one of the greatest Broadway adaptations of all time.
Cabaret is set in the German Weimar Republic in 1931, under the growing influence of the Nazi Party. It’s a tumultuous period in political history explored through a musical drama that has been regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
This film made Bob Fosse the most honoured director in the film industry at the time. It has been credited for its exploration of bisexuality and hailed as the “last great musical” of the film industry. To put the icing on the cake, it includes an astounding score of entirely diegetic songs that make it a unique and wonderful musical to watch.
Liza Minnelli’s performance is astounding, and her voice arguably even more so. You can’t call yourself a musical fan if you haven’t seen Cabaret.
#2 – Frenzy
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Jon Finch, Alec McCowen & Barry Foster.
Just look at this trailer. Look at it. Alfred Hitchcock is the man.
Frenzy might not be the best film of his career, but it certainly fits the mould of a classic Hitchcock. Following a serial murderer in London, this is a mystery-thriller that showcases some of the best of what Hitchcock brought to the cinematic art form.
With the incredible experimental shots and angles that you could expect to see nowhere else in the 1970s, this film also features an awesome cast, a surprisingly funny script and a whole lot of originality. It’s a great introduction to what Hitchcock is all about if you’d like to revisit one of the all-time greats.
Expect something the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It’s brilliant from start to finish.
#1 – The Godfather
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino & James Caan.
I’m putting aside my personal preference and taking my hat off to what is widely regarded as possibly the greatest film ever made.
I’m not a huge fan of The Godfather trilogy myself, but there’s no denying a staggering Marlon Brando performance when you see one. There’s also no denying this gangster classic defined the course of cinema over the latter part of the 20th century.
Based on the novel by Mario Puzo, this film swept up at the Oscars, winning three and accumulating seven other nominations. Not to mention the fact that it kickstarted the stellar career of Al Pacino. With so many quotable and frequently-referenced moments, even a non-believer like myself has to salute this icon of cinematic history.
This is the very definition of a bucket list film.