Strangely, it wasn’t the recent NSA ruling by a Federal Court smacking down Bush’s illegal spy ring that got me to netflix one of my old favorite Watergate-era films.
What got me going back to my favorite time in film history, America’s 1970s, was actually the fade-to-black shot of film-noir masterpiece The Third Man (1949) [view trailer]. You know, that brave long quiet last shot where the loyal and jilted lover of Orson Welles, Valli (Anna Schmidt) walks towards the camera for an aching 65 seconds of heavy zither music only to pass her suitor, the audience surrogate, without a glance.
The late 1960s was a time of radical change in the world of film. The Hollywood studio system was in decline, while the European art film movement created a new aesthetic standard for filmmaking. This industry transformation, encouraged by the success of a few experimental Hollywood films at the end of the decade, led to the filmmaking renaissance of the 1970s. The monolithic Hollywood studios began to lose their power during the 1960s. Millions of dollars were spent on extravagant blockbusters such as Cleopatra, but with diminishing returns at the box office. At the same time, the traditional, wholesome values represented and reinforced by Hollywood movies were increasingly rejected by the new generation of film audiences, and the studios were unsure what to do.
The play Mnemonic begins with a monologue about the location of memory processes in the brain and continues on to contemplate the genealogy of humankind:
“Anyway, our job, the job of remembering, is to reassemble, to literally re-member, put the relevant members back together. But what I am getting at is that remembering is essentially not only an act of retrieval but a creative thing, it happens in the moment, an act, an act of the imagination. Of course if memory is this chaotic map it’s highly likely that you will lose your way and retrieve or imagine something you didn’t expect because you take a different route than the one you thought you should. For example as I stand here trying to remember my text, for some reason my father is coming to my mind.”