TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese)
Seriously, what more can be said about this modern classic? Very little from me, I’m afraid. Still incredibly watchable, even hypnotic. Approachable in so many different ways: as a brilliant acting tour de force, as an insightful character study, as a mood piece, even as therapy, as it was for screenwriter Paul Schrader. A gritty meditation on loneliness, it is also a masterwork of direction for Martin Scorsese. Finally, there is the haunting score by Bernard Herrmann, completed on the day of his death, Christmas Eve 1975.
It may not have been a great year for movies, but it was a damned good one for Brian de Palma. Let us recognize and acknowledge the growth-spurt of an American cinematic icon.
CARRIE (Brian De Palma)
With CARRIE, De Palma hit the big time. He was no longer thought to be destined to be a mere “cult” favorite. He was bankable. He could and would go in and out of commercial favor, just like every other major director. He was a contender. He would be Quentin Tarantino’s favorite director. While CARRIE is no EXORCIST, it still went a long way toward legitimizing the horror genre once again. We can all be grateful for that.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (Nicholas Roeg)
Not a great film by any means, but hardly a failure either. It rather defies judgement just as it does categorization. It seemed like the perfect vehicle for David Bowie’s screen debut. There is a fascinating quality to the film that at the same time keeps us distant. And after all, any adventurous undertaking by the inquisitive director Roeg is always preferable to a big box-office hit such as the year’s big winner, ROCKY.
OBSESSION (Brian De Palma)
With this film, director De Palma drew his line in the sand, dividing many critics while establishing some hardcore fans. From now on, he seemed to be declaring, he would be a stylist. And sometimes style would be content, while showing a Hitchcockian disregard for plausibility. Excess would become a trademark, and you either bought into it or you didn’t. If OBSESSION works for you, it is due in no small part to the sumptuous score by Bernard Herrmann. This is a score that complements, even embraces the ultra-romanticism of De Palma’s approach.
THE TENANT (Roman Polanski)
Nobody does paranoia and dread like Polanski. Although not too well-received upon release, THE TENANT looks masterful today. Shot in Paris with an international cast, the sometimes awkward dubbing only adds to the strangeness of the proceedings. Polanski made the right choice when he cast himself as the ultimate existential victim.