best film:  Persona is Bergman’s most radical film and a breakthrough visually for the great auteur. I have it as his top film. It may be Sven Nykvist’s best work and the complex narrative, which beautifully realized visually, has influenced Polanski, Bunuel (that obscure object of desire) De Palma and Lynch amongst others. The dueling performances are superb but that alone doesn’t make a top 30 all-time film—its Bergman and his use of mise-en-scene blocking/staging, lighting and set piece magnificence.  It is an experimental and challenging masterpiece.

most underrated: I actually don’t have much here. The consensus has done a solid job of not underrating things. If anything, I’d pick leone’s the good the bad and the ugly as being slightly underrated. I think it’s a top 50 all-time film and they have it at #160. It is clearly a stylistic pillar and on the faux mount rushmore of films as far as the use of film editing and the finale, the duel, is cinematic perfection- if your top 100 doesn’t include this film I think you’re flat wrong and are missing one of the key modes of language in film style.

most overrated: Au hasard Balthazar at #34, which is where the TSPDT critics have it, is not something I can get behind. I get the allegory, and bresson’s distinct storytelling is something I admire and appreciate, but the austerity and implied brilliance of it pales in comparison to that of like leone’s masterpiece or bergman’s as my best film of the year. I’m closer to like 500-700th all-time.

gem I want to spotlight: who’s afraid of virigina wolf is one of the most confident, jaw-dropping debut films from an auteur in cinema history. Nichols is a genius of casting, with taylor and burton, and makes important choices (close up usage and use of black and white) that are so instinctual and vital to the finished product. The atmosphere he creates helps take it away from its stage-bound origins.

trends and notables:  1966 is often cited as the low-point for Hollywood/American cinema. There are a lot of awful films and I love the American new wave from 1967-1979 so I can’t disagree- there needed to be a change. Nichols is a breath of fresh air in Hollywood (his 2nd film in 1967, the graduate, would be a major pillar in that new wave) but he’s really the only American that made a top 10 film in 1966. It’s still a solid year with the dominance of bergman, fellini, tarkovsky, Antonioni, bresson and others. These are major auteurs in cinema history doing solid work in 1966. We have the first archivable film for Robert Redford in the chase. Charlotte Rampling has her first archiveable film in georgy girl and same for Vanessa Redgrave in both a man for all seasons and blow up. They are both amazing actresses and its weird how often I compare them with their regal beauty and iciness. The late John Hurt has a small role in the oscar winning film a man for all season and as I mentioned above this is the debut, and what a debut, for director Mike Nichols. Though none of them make my top 5 performance below Michael Caine (Alfie, gambit), Steve McQueen (sand pebbles, nevada smith) and paul newman (harper, torn curtain) are probably the biggest stars on earth and do great work in 1966.

best performance male:  I may be out there on a limb but I think Eli Wallach gives the best performance of the year in the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not an overly strong year in this category so I actually would select all 3 leads (including van cleef and eastwood) as my five finalists, and I think it’s Wallach who is given the heaviest lifting to do in the film and he’s mesmerizing. Logically the film would work with Eastwood and Van Cleef (the non-verbal performances of all 3 are masterful) but its Wallach’s that adds such a dynamic dimension. He’s a clown, complex, and completely believable as a cold-blooded killer from scene to scene. Behind those three I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the work of Richard Burton. I actually can’t believe I haven’t mentioned him before (he’s wonderful in like 1964’s beckett with o’toole as well). This is the perfect vehicle for him and his battle scenes with Elizabeth Taylor are breathtaking. Lastly, Robert Shaw absolutely holds the viewer capture his few minutes on screen in a man for all seasons. It’s a tour-de-four in miniature and my final pick for top 5 performance of the year here.

best performance female: I’m going with Elizabeth Taylor in who’s afraid of virgina wolf?. She’s is so dynamic- a powerhouse. She gained weight and played an older woman and it paid off- it’s the best performance of her career. Also, another factor in choosing Taylor (who would win in this category in almost any year) is that it’s really hard to pick the top performance in bergman’s persona. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann are so good that it’s impossible to distinguish the greater work between the two. Either one of those two actresses would win. My last performance here I wanted to single out was Anouk Aimée who is fabulous opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant in a man and a woman. Admittedly, there’s a big gap here between the top 3 performances here and #4 but still- Aimée is worthy.

 

top 10

 

  1. Persona
  2. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
  3. Andrei Rublev
  4. Blow-Up
  5. The Battle Of Algiers
  6. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf
  7. Au Hasard, Balthazar
  8. Closely Watched Trains
  9. A Man and a Woman
  10. A Man For All Seasons

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

 

A Man And a Woman HR
A Man For All Seasons- Zinneman HR
Alfie HR
Andrei Rublev- Tarkovsky MP
Au Hasard, Balthazar- Bresson HR
Blow-Up- Antonioni MS
Closely Watched Trains HR
Cul-de-Sac- Polanski R
Daises R
Django R
Duel at Diablo R
Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill
Gambit R
Georgy Girl R
Grand Prix- Frankenheimer R
Harper R
How To Steal A Million- Wyler R
Khartoum R
Kill,  Baby, Kill- Bava R
Masculine, Feminine- Godard R
Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment- Reisz R
Nevada Smith R
Persona- Bergman MP
Sand Pebbles- Wise R
Second Breath- Melville
Seconds- Frankenheimer R
Seven Women- J. Ford HR
The Battle Of Algiers MS
The Big Gundown R
The Chase- Penn R
The Fortune Cookie- Wilder R
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly- Leone MP
The Hawks and the Sparrows- Pasolini R
The Pornographers- Inamura
The Professionals- R. Brooks R
The Rise of Louis XIV- Rossellini R
Torn Curtain- Hitchock R
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf- Nichols MS

 

*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