best film:  La Dolce Vita is fellini’s tour of the seven deadly sins (and sacraments and creation) through Marcello Mastroianni, modern rome, and some of the best set pieces cinema has ever produced. That said, thought I think Felllini’s film is the greater one I don’t have much beef at all though if someone wants to put godard’s masterpiece in the #1 slot.

most underrated:  I’m going to go with purple noon here. It’s the new wave meets Hitchcock (thru Patricia Highsmith source material) and it’s splendidly shot with an unflappable lead performance by Delon. It should be a must-see top 500-600 film of all-time and it’s not in the top 1000 on TSPDT. It’s also tempting to pick shoot the piano player which should be about 300 slots better than the #341 consensus spot on TSPDT where it is now.  

most overrated: eyes without a face is #333 according to TSPDT and #8 of 1960. I think the film is superb but can’t find a spot for it in my top 12 of 1960.

gem I want to spotlight: 1960 is loaded. I want to mention exemplary Hollywood filmmaking in john sturges’ the magnificent seven with a great elmer bernstein score, Steve McQueen becoming “Steve McQueen,” and an all-around excellent entrée into the western genre (and an ensemble cast that includes Brynner, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn). I’d love to also mention Mario Bava’s black sunday—but ultimately, if forced to single out one “gem”-  I’d have to pick Bergman’s virgin spring. It’s a severe film-even for bergman- but I think one of his strongest on a purely visual level. Clearly it influenced many films and filmmakers including wes craven’s pure horror read of the film in the last house on the left. It’s poetic and devastating, along with being the first bergman film to be shot entirely by Sven Nykvist. 

trends and notables:  If forced to pick a single year as the greatest in cinema I’d pick 1960. It has 5 films in my top 100 (plus another honorable mention). Its full swing french new wave (masterpieces from the two godfathers, godard and truffaut) and we have towering masterpieces from Italian masters fellini, antonioni and Visconti…and we have psycho. It’s an astonishing year. It’s peak European art cinema (bergman, de sica). I have to single out the birth of godard with breathless. It’s a landmark that trails only citizen kane on my all-time director’s debut list. We have Mario Bava’s first archiveable film. With Godard’s first, it’s also his star’s Jean-Paul Belmondo’s first archiveable film. Roger Corman is more of an influencer, producer, and outlier/anti-hollywood figure in cinema history than a director but we have his first archiveable film here as a director and he’d go on to have 3 more in the decade. French actor Alain Delon explodes on the scene in 1960 with both rocco and purple noon. Two strong performances in top 500 films- it’s arguably a greater achievement than even belmondo. Albert Finney has his first two archiveable performances in 1960. The Entertainer is a small role for him, but his work in Saturday night and Sunday morning is a staggering work and it kills me not to include in my top male performances below—but again—this year is loaded. Michael Powell steps out on his own, away from the pressburger collaborative effort- for the first time with peeping tom. It’s smashing artistic success but such a disaster on the commercial side (perhaps pressburger, more the producer, could have helped) that it essentially kills his career.

best performance male:  It’s a magnificent year for screen acting on both sides here. I’m singling out 6 performers—going over my normal 5. Jean-Paul Belmondo’s transcendent performance in breathless is my pick for best male performance of 1960. He’s effortless in his screen presence and it’s impossible to picture godard’s masterwork without him. Following up closely behind Belmondo is Mastroianni in la dolce vita. I can’t believe I’m not picking it as the best performance of the year. It’s massive achievement for mastroianni. Behind him is Anthony Perkins in psycho and another comedic genius-level performance from jack lemmon in the apartment (with more of a dramatic leaning than his some like it hot performance the year before). My last two choices are Delon and Laurence Olivier. Both actors have two major achievements in 1960. For Delon it’s rocco and purple noon and for Olivier (certainly a screen veteran at this time) it’s the entertainer and Spartacus. He plays an absolute bastard in the entertainer and it’s fantastic to watch Olivier excel in the role and in Spartacus he’s probably the best single performance in about an absolutely fabulous ensemble.

best performance female: The oscars aren’t always right (sometimes it seems like they rarely are) but eventually (I think like 2-3 years later) they awarded the best actress award to Sophia Loren for her work in De Sica’s two women and they were absolutely right in doing so. It’s up there with the greatest performances by a female in the decade and compares favorably with the best neorealism performances of all time. Shirley MacLaine’s work in the apartment is a very close second to Loren. Jean Seberg isn’t as vital to breathless as belmondo but she’s still a very important part of the film’s success.  My last two choices here to round out the top 5 are twin disappearing acts in l’avventura and psycho. Screen time is not always everything and both janet leigh and monica vitti are brilliant in their respective efforts here- even if they disappear half way through the film.

 

top 10

  1. La Dolce Vita
  2. Breathless
  3. Psycho
  4. Shoot the Piano Player
  5. L’Avventura
  6. Rocco and His Brothers
  7. The Apartment
  8. The Virgin Spring
  9. Peeping Tom
  10. Two Women

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

1000 Eyes of Mr. Mabuse- Lang
Black Sunday- Bava HR
Breathless- Godard MP
Butterfield 8 R
Commanche Station- Boetticher R
Elmer Gantry- R. Brooks R
Escape By Night- Rossellini R
Exodus- Preminger R
Eyes Without a Face HR
House of Usher- Corman R
Inherit the Wind- Kramer R
La Dolce Vita- Fellini MP
La Joven- Bunuel
Late Autumn- Ozu
L’Avventura- Antonioni MP
Never on Sunday- Dassin R
North to Alaska- Wayne R
Ocean’s Eleven- Milestone R
Peeping Tom- M. Powell MS
Psycho- Hitchcock MP
Purple Noon- Clement MS
Rocco and His Brothers- Visconti MP
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning-  Reisz HR
Shoot the Piano Player- Truffaut MP
Spartacus- Kubrick HR
Swiss Family Robinson R
The Alamo R
The Apartment- Wilder MP
The Big Risk
The Entertainer HR
The Facts of Life R
The Fugitive Kind- Lumet R
The League of Gentlemen R
The Magnificent Seven- P. Sturges HR
The Sundowners- Zinneman R
The Testament of Orpheus- Cocteau R
The Time Machine R
The Virgin Spring- Bergman MS
Tunes of Glory R
Two Women- De Sica MS
Village of the Damned R
Wild River- Kazan
Zazie dans Le Métro- Malle R

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives