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Reel Radicals: The Sixties Revolution in Film (2002)

This 90-minute documentary illustrates how directors pushed boundaries and altered the art of filmmaking during the turbulent, swinging 1960s. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, "Reel Radicals" ... See full summary »


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This 90-minute documentary illustrates how directors pushed boundaries and altered the art of filmmaking during the turbulent, swinging 1960s. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, "Reel Radicals" features clips from such seminal films as Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967); Mike Nichols' "The Graduate" (1967); Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" (1969); John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962); Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968); John Schlesinger's "Midnight Cowboy" (1969); Richard Brooks' "Elmer Gantry" (1960) and "In Cold Blood" (1967); and Norman Jewison's "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) and "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968). Frankenheimer, Jewison, Hopper, Schlesinger, Penn, Buck Henry, Paul Mazursky, Roger Corman and Arthur Hiller are among the filmmakers who discuss the decade. Written by alfiehitchie

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2 April 2002 (USA)  »

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film must change with the times
27 September 2007 | by (Portland, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

I had known a little bit about the 1960s change in cinema, but "Reel Radicals: The Sixties Revolution in Film" lays it all out. Probably the main aspect that comes to people's minds is the emergence of sexuality on the screen, as shown by the likes of "Midnight Cowboy" and "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". But the overall change was a shift away from the 1950s eye candy to more serious topics: race relations ("To Kill a Mockingbird"), the Cold War ("Dr. Strangelove"), the generation gap ("The Graduate") and overall political upheaval ("Medium Cool").

One thing that I wish that they could have gotten into was when movies from that era had a seemingly apolitical plot as the setting for political commentary. For example, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" may look like a wacky comedy, but really seems to be a parable of greed, showing how people will do anything for money.

For the most part, though, I thought that the documentary did a swell job with its topic. It all brings to mind the fact that the 1960s cinematic shift away from escapism led to 1970s cinema focusing on the fruits of the '60s movements, then escapism (particularly high action) resurfaced in the '80s, and then the indies rose in the '90s. It still remains to be seen what specifically 21st century cinema will inhibit.

All in all, worth seeing. I might also note that people talk about TV experiencing its major change in the '70s, with "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son". I would say that there actually was a little bit of a shift in the '60s. Aside from shows like "Bewitched", "Gilligan's Island" and "I Dream of Jeannie" having a semi-psychedelic look, these shows often contained situations where people from the older generation would come across something unfamiliar, and look ridiculous when they tried to explain it (after all, people not taking part in what happened in the '60s couldn't even begin to explain it). That's my take on things.

But I digress. Definitely a documentary that I recommend.

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