Category Archives: 1971

Movies released in 1971.

Review: THX 1138

Director: George Lucas
Year: 1971
Score: 7.5/10

Shitty 2004 CGI monkeys in a low-budget 1971 sci-fi film? This, George Lucas, is why so many people hate you.

Shitty 2004 CGI monkeys in a low-budget 1971 sci-fi film? This, George Lucas, is why so many people hate you.

Fascinating low-budget dystopian sci-fi drama/thriller that’s as interesting for its actual content as it is for its place in film history as (a) George Lucas’ debut (see what he could make back when he was genuinely creative!) and (b) American Zoetrope’s first disaster. It’s highly evocative of (and, let’s be honest, rips off) Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and presents perhaps the most vivid and oppressive depiction of a non-apocalyptic dystopia I’ve seen on film. There are some core problems, mostly with the narrative (surprise, surprise!) – structurally it’s not especially coherent, the middle section (featuring our hero in a kind of prison) doesn’t really work, and the final act is disappointing in its simplistic focus on pursuit (featuring Yet Another George Lucas Car Chase™) – but there’s much to enjoy despite them. The sound design is brilliant (the oft-heard snippets of techno-babble spouted by bureaucrats who rule through surveillance are especially effective); there are some great ideas; the satirical elements still seem relevant and on-point; and the final shot is deservedly iconic. Robert Duvall is fine but frequently upstaged by the excellent Donald Pleasance. The version now available is Retcon Lucas’ 2004 reissue, featuring new CGI insertions that are mostly (with the obvious exception of the CGI monkey versions of the shell dwellers near the end) more seamless than those in the Star Wars reissues.

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Review: The Last Picture Show

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Year: 1971
Score: 8/10

Sad and perhaps overlong coming-of-age story is hard to get into, but eventually it caught me. It’s impressively unvarnished by nostalgia, which is unusual given it’s set in the early ’50s and made in the early ’70s. There’s excellent use of period music and black-and-white cinematography to set the scene and mood. As with all great films, it’s very much open to interpretation, but I saw it as a story about small towns, small communities of people just trying to find and experience “it” – whatever “it” is; perhaps happiness, perhaps adulthood, perhaps ‘life’, perhaps love. A story about how all things end, even as our adult lives begin; about how the experiences we have on the cusp of adulthood shape us and stay with us; and about how sometimes those experiences can beat the hope out of us. This one really made me think. A sidenote: Timothy Bottoms, the lead actor, looks like a less odd-looking version of Paul Dano.

Review: The Panic in Needle Park

Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Year: 1971
Score: 7/10

Young Pacino (in his breakout role) is compelling and impressive, but the real surprise for me was his co-star Kitty Winn. Her transformation from naïve, innocent young woman to desperate junkie and hooker is heartbreaking and entirely believable. The movie also has a fairly good sense of place and gives what seems an authentic glimpse into that place’s junkie subculture.

Review: Harold and Maude

Director: Hal Ashby
Year: 1971
Score: 7/10

This odd film is practically the definition of black comedy: its protagonist is obsessed with death, and that’s the primary source of humour. At first much of the comedy falls flat, but by the end there are some belly laughs, and it’s hard not to enjoy. To a large degree this is due to the unique and winning character of Maude: she opens our eyes (and whichever parts of our bodies open when we laugh) as much as Harold’s. Excellent use of Cat Stevens music – in particular, Don’t Be Shy and If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out are beautiful.

Review: Gentlemen of Fortune

Director: Aleksandr Seryj
Year: 1971
Score: 6.5/10

Gentlemen of Fortune

In America, men and women play. In Soviet Russia, men play women!

This Russian farce is quite funny at times but fairly inconsistent. It’s well-cast and reasonably well-performed, particularly by Yevgeny Leonov, who plays two roles. There are some interesting glimpses into aspects of Soviet Russian society, such as what kindergarten classes were like. The prison slang humour plays well even in translation, and I’m guessing it would be even funnier to Russian speakers. I don’t have much more to say about this one so I’ll leave it to ‘Bakunian’, who said this in his Amazon.com review: “First time I saw this movie when it came out in 1971, I was 7 years old then. I remember, I laughed so hard I fell of [sic] the chair in movie theater. Now I don’t fall of [sic] the chair just because I installed seatbelts on my couch.”