best film:  The Godfather is the best film of 1972 and is universally canonized for a very good reason. It is one of the best 5 narratives in the history of cinema and that narrative, and the elite-level acting alone, would be enough to declare it a masterpiece, but with Francis Ford Coppola’s direction, from the opening shot, the nino rota score, photography by gordon willis, and the ending killing spree montage… it’s one of cinema’s greatest films period beyond just that perfect narrative.

most underrated: . I want to applaud the TSPDT consensus here because I’m very closer to their rankings for 1972 and have to really nitpick to complain about Bergman’s cries and whispers at #159. I have it at #56. I think from a purely storyline standpoint #159 is a fine ranking but bergman’s work with color here is astounding. It’s not actually his first color film but, like fellini’s Juliet of the spirits, it’s a major achievement in color’s usage and one of the films I think of first when thinking about color in cinema period. It actually won best cinematography (Sven Nykvist) in 1973 over the exorcist and others.

most overrated:  fat city at #610 on TSPDT is the only film I have even the slightest problem about here.  Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges are very good but many of John Huston’s films haven’t worn well with me so I’d have this on the fringe of, if not outside, my top 1000 completely.

gem I want to spotlight: I could watch play it again, sam with woody allen and diane keaton every month and it would never get old so that certainly constitutes a “gem” but if I had to pick one film here I’d need to focus on bunuel’s the discreet charm of the bourgeois. It’s very rare that a comedy is both so funny and visually arresting but that is certainly the case here and the formal elements of the film (the walking down the road) are the absolute strongest of bunuel’s career.   

trends and notables:  1972 is the godfather and coppola’s year without a doubt. It’s a pillar of American cinema, and a massive achievement for coppola, pacino, brando, gordon willis, and many others. Herzog and Bergman also produced films very worthy of the top slot in many years. It’s not his debut, but this is a monster first archiveable film for coppola- such a tremendous triumph. The godfather gives us the first archiveable films for john cazale and diane keaton (who is also in play it again, sam this year in the archives). Woody Allen as an actor is in two archiveable films from 1972 (play it again, sam and everything you wanted to know…). It’s the first of 4 archiveable films together for Herzog and Kinski (Aguirre, woyzeck, nosferatu, and fitzcarraldo). What a pairing!  1972 is extremely important for being the first archiveable film for Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He’d absolutely be a transcendent figure and auteur over the next decade. With Herzog and Fassbinder both giving us top 10 films we’re definitely in the German New Wave cinema here. They aren’t quite on the level of Herzog and kinski but this is the first of 4 collaborations for Sidney Pollock and Robert Redford as well (Jeremiah Johnson, the way we were, three days of the condor, and out of Africa). There’s nothing on the level of pat garrett or the wild bunch but we have two archiveable films in one year for sam peckinpah. Lastly, there ‘a new look in cinema developing and by 1972 established.  It’s a darker look– an answer to 1960’s American comedy and musical artificial lighting. Gordon Willis leads the way with the godfather here and in klute in 1971 with the paranoia trilogy from pakula–  but more than that we’d see it in movies like fat city, cabaret and certainly in the german new wave with Fassbinder.

best performance male: It’s Brando’s year. I’ve actually written this section three times once choosing his performance in last tango, one picking his performance in the godfather and once going with Pacino (who was somehow shoved into best supporting for the godfather). I’m going to go with last tango but I essentially have all three performances tied and not far behind them in the haunting performance from Kinski. Fernando Rey is superb in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and I have to stick a 6th option and acknowledge the volcanic performance from james caan in the godfather.

best performance female: I don’t agree with them often but the Oscars got 1972 right with Liza Minnelli’s sparkling performance in cabaret. It’s what this category is meant for and rivals the best work of her mother Judy Garland. It’s so damn good it would rival Brando’s work on the other side of this category. Behind Liza are the twin performances in cries and whispers from Liv Ullman (a mainstay in this category at this point) and Harriet Andersson. Two supporting performances from Shelley Winters (poseidon adventure) and diane keaton (ok I’m breaking the rule here and giving it to keaton for her combined work in the godfather and play it again, sam) round out my top 5 from 1972.

top 10

  1. The Godfather
  2. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  3. Cries and Whispers
  4. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  5. Cabaret
  6. Solaris
  7. The Last Tango in Paris
  8. Deliverance
  9. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
  10. The Getaway


Archives, Directors, and Grades

1776 R
Across 110th Street R
Aguirre, Wrath of God- Herzog MP
Avanti- Wilder HR
Bad Company- Benton R
Cabaret- Fosse MP
Chloe in the Afternoon- Rohmer
Cries and Whispers- Bergman MP
Deliverance- Boorman MS
Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex- Allen R
Fat City- J. Huston HR
Fellini’s Roma- Fellini R/HR
Frenzy- Hitchcock R
Jeremiah Johnson- Pollock R
Junior Bonner- Peckinpah R
Last Tango in Paris- Bertolucci MS
Play It Again, Sam- Ross R
Poseidon Adventure R
Sleuth- Mankzewitz
Solaris- Tarkovsky MS
Sounder- Ritt R
Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me- Truffaut R
The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant- Fassbinder HR
The Candidate R
The Canterbury Tales- Pasolini
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie- Bunuel MP
The Getaway- Peckinpah R/HR
The Godfather- F. Coppola MP
The Heartbreak Kid
The King of Marvin’s Gardens R
The Ruling Class HR
The Seduction of Mimi
The Slaughterhouse Five R
Tout Va Bien- Godard R
Ulzana’s Raid- Aldrich R
Un Flic- Melville
What’s Up, Doc?- Bogdanovich 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