best film: Kubrick’s a clockwork orange is far and away the greatest cinematic achievement of 1971 which gives Kubrick back to back films with the best films of the year (2001 in 1968). This rarely happens. It’s a formal and stylistic triumph of the highest order and I have it as the great master’s second best film only behind 2001. You can go on and on about the visuals (it’s a wall-to-wall showcase of stylistic heights) but Kubrick could also construct a narrative as brilliantly as any other director and the symmetry of alex’s follies before and after his “treatment” match anything from jarmusch or ozu or other formal masters.
most underrated: . Carnal knowledge isn’t on the top 1000 TSPDT. Critics of the film are getting caught up in the sexual politics but they’re missing the acting (an amazing 4 character chamber piece—I’m counting Ann-margret as the 4th), writing, and nichols’ direction. It makes a great companion piece to the graduate and closer from nichols over 30 years later. The ending is absolutely wild. I’d have it as a top 300 film.
most overrated: I’m a great admirer of Visconti and the source material so it could be that I’m just massively overdue (my last viewing was 2005ish) but I can’t get behind having death in venice at #195- which is where the TSPDT consensus has it. With this lofty of a ranking it’s not surprising that it’s the #2 film from 1971 and I can’t find a spot for it in my top 10 so there’s a clear discrepancy here.
gem I want to spotlight: wake in fright can’t quite find its way on my top 10 of the year below but it absolutely slap-across-the-face cinema (if that’s a term). It’s a meditation on masculinity and certainly it’s quite a horror story—it hasn’t aged at all. Also, willy wonka shouldn’t work but it does and it’s a gem a revisit often, especially for a non-top 10 film).
trends and notables: We still don’t have coppola or scorsese in the archives but American cinema is back with 8 of the 10 in the top 10. Ashby, Nichols, Altman continue their fantastic work and we even have a great first archiveable film from Alan Pakula (klute) and William Friedkin (French connection). It’s also the first archiveable film for a 25 year Steven Spielberg in the promising duel. George Lucas, though not the director Friedkin is let alone Spielberg and Fassbinder also had his first archiveable film here in 1971 so we have something with both Lucas and Spielberg. These two would change movies forever. Kubrick, with this 3rd masterpiece in a row, would develop an “event cinema” for the director type of style that is the dominant mode for auteurs today. It’s years of preparation and perfection and then one release—though very few, if any, could pull it off like Kubrick creating such unique and supremely masterful outpourings with each effort. 1971 is a deep year- as of today’s date in 2017 I have 43 archiveable films which is a high count. 1971 also gives us another top 10 film from Truffaut with two French girls– this gives the French master back to back years with top 10 films. Blaxploitation becomes a sub-genre under the crime category with the new rating system and we have shaft here in 1971. 1971 is the first archiveable film/year for a young Al Pacino who is mesmerizing in panic in needle park. He’s electric and you can tell immediately this is going to be a great actor. Jeff Bridges, in a louder debut to the archives (with an oscar nom!), arrives with his performances in the last picture show. We also have the first archiveable performance for Ellen Burstyn in the same film. I can’t really call it an entry into the archives, but if you don’t blink you’ll catch a very young Daniel Day Lewis in sunday bloody sunday– more from him in the 1980’s. Along with having a huge year as an actor (dirty harry and the beguiled– proving he’s more than just a product of leone as both of these are with his other mentor- don siegel), clint eastwood has his debut film as a director with play misty for me. Lastly, though he doesn’t quite get a mention below as a top 5 actor I feel like I have to tip the cap to Roy Scheider for his work in both klute and the French connection. He’s very much more than marginal in two of the year’s top 10 films.
best performance male: Malcom McDowell is a supernova in a clockwork orange. It’s a large performance that does some amazing things, mainly because of McDowell, to a viewer’s feeling for the protagonist. As good as Gene Hackman is in his oscar winning performance in the French connection as popeye doyle—I have to give the edge to mcdowell. Behind those two great performances in 1971 I have to acknowledge Warren Beatty in McCabe & mrs. miller. He grunts and snorts through much of the performance (and altman’s use of audio makes it especially tough without subtitles) but it’s easily one of beatty and the year’s best. Jack Nicholson continues his streak (3 years now) of great work in carnal knowledge and ben johnson’s oscar winning monologue in the last picture show is a warranted prize, as is his mention here, for a great performance and great actor who has been doing character work in the western genre for 20 years.
best performance female: Jane Fonda gives the best female performance of the year yet again (did in 1969 as well) in klute. He’s commanding and it’s a deserving oscar win. Julie Christie continues to be one of the best 2-3 actresses on the planet at the time with her work in mccable and mrs miller. My third best performance of the year is Ann-Margret for her work in carnal knowledge. I think she might be slightly better in rosemary’s baby but ruth gordon is part of what makes Harold and maude work so I have to mention her here. My last two mentions here are both women who tried to kill Clint Eastwood in 1971 films—haha—Geraldine Page in the beguiled gives the more nuanced performance of the two but it’s hard to deny the rage in the work of Jessica walter as the stalker in play misty for me.
- A Clockwork Orange
- The French Connection
- Harold and Maude
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller
- Carnal Knowledge
- The Last Picture Show
- Two English Girls
- Dirty Harry
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Clockwork Orange- Kubrick||MP|
|A New Leaf||R|
|Bay of Blood- Bava||R|
|Carnal Knowledge- Nichols||MP|
|Claire’s Knee- Rohmer|
|Death in Venice- Visconti|
|Dirty Harry- Siegel||MS/HR|
|Fistful of Dynamite- Leone||R|
|Get Carter- Caine||R|
|Harold and Maude- Ashby||MP|
|Just Before Nightfall- Charbol|
|Man in the Wilderness||R|
|McCabe and Mrs. Miller- Altman||MP|
|Minnie and Manzowitz- Cassavettes|
|Murmur of the Heart- Malle||HR|
|Nicholas and Alexandra-Schaffner|
|Panic in Needle Park||R|
|Play Misty For Me- Eastwood||R|
|Straw Dogs- Peckinpah||R|
|Sunday, Bloody, Sunday- Schlesinger||R|
|Taking Off- Forman|
|The Andromeda Strain- Wise||R|
|The Beguilded- Siegel||HR|
|The French Connection- Friedkin||MP|
|The Go-Between- Losey|
|The Hospital- Hiller||R|
|The Last Picture Show- Bogdanovich||MS|
|The Merchant of Four Seasons- Fassbinder||R|
|The Omega Man||R|
|THX 1138- Lucas||R|
|Twins of Evil||R|
|Two English Girls- Truffaut||MS|
|Wake in Fright||HR|
|Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory||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