|Issue 2 - February 1972|
|One New Face, The Same Old Myths|
few random thoughts sparked off by some recent movies.
Many critics have been mumbling about recent cinematic revolutions, particularly in the Hollywood cinema. Basically movies such as 'Easy Rider' or 'Vanishing Point' (a sort of 'Easy Rider' in a car) are perpetrating the same myths as any John Ford western - e.g. the individual versus the community - only within a contemporary setting. Bob Rafelson's 'Five Easy Pieces' is a little reassuring - new myths for old; although again, the character portrayed by Jack Nicholson is more akin to the John Wayne character in Ford's 'The Searchers' than to any contemporary figure.
The fact is that in an art-form such as the cinema, form and content must go hand-in-hand and, sadly, revolutionary content does not equal revolutionary cinema unless it is accompanied by revolutionary form, both from the points of view of photography and editing. Thus 'Performance' makes it; 'The Strawberry Statement' goes halfway (ironically as it is more a result of the Hollywood dream machine than Hopper's film); 'Easy Rider' makes it only from the point of view of sincerity, and 'Vanishing Point' does not make it at all, except from the point of view of excitement, and excitement is very subjective. But does Dennis Hopper want to be a new Frank Capra (re 'Mr Deeds Goes to Town' and 'Mr Smith Goes to Washington')? A movie needs far more than sincerity if it is to stimulate both emotionally and intellectually.
The role of the contemporary cinema must be similar to that of the alternative press, i.e. to present an audience with a selection of messages, stimulations and choices, hoping to cause some reassessment of the individual's ideas and values. Thus, 'Oz', 'IT', 'Frendz', 'Muther Grumble' etc are to 'The Listener', 'The Spectator', 'Weekend', 'Parade' etc; as 'Performance', 'Easy Rider', 'Five Easy Pieces' etc are to 'The Sound of Music', the 'Carry On' series, Hammer etc. An alternative press is not enough - we already have alternative music - the sooner these are accompanied by alternative television and alternative cinema, the better. There is a weird mixture of the reassuring, the frightening and the bizarre in the fact that Frank Zappa's '200 Motels' is currently the biggest box-office draw in the States. Does this mean that Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw will star in Frank's next movie???