A Married Couple (1969)
Dir. Allan King
Allan King exposes the best and worst of the nuclear family. Admittedly, the best is few and far between when compared to the worst, but when it does appear it is something like a beam of light coming in from the window and illuminating a dark room, showing us what we couldn’t notice otherwise. A Married Couple is an unreasonably strong documentary because it doesn’t look for a story, it looks for faces and is so deeply invested in its people, that it wouldn’t dare film this romantically defunct married couple as anything other than the most fascinating subject in the world. At no point does King or anyone interrupt the subjects of the film with direction or questions (something that separates it from the somewhat similar-in-tone work of the Maysles), and focusing on presenting the world of these people with beautifully quiet camera work. A major masterpiece and one of the best Canadian films I’ve seen.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Dir. Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdonavich examines and expresses the confusion and anxiety of a small town in Texas that is, above all else, desolate in spirit. The misdirection of the town’s youth is only equal to the misdirection of the town’s adults. We come to understand the necessity of a scapegoat passion like football, as well as the escape of cinema, in a community full of people who are beginning to outgrow the small lives that were carved out for them at birth. The repression inherent in their lifestyles leads to overwhelming guilt and shame over their sexuality. The problem of clothing is a preoccupation in the film (undressing is an elaborate endeavour) and the creaks of a bed “in use” and the creaks of a descending coffin come from the same utterance of feeling. Also: Cybil Shepherd.
Dir. Charles Chaplin
Far from perfect, but beautiful regardless, Chaplin’s Limelight is a fitting farewell to his onscreen persona(s) (another reason A King in New York just doesn’t work). At its best, the film is moving and even life-affirming; At its worst the drama can be a little thin. The lead female performance is one of the most awkward in Chaplin canon, but fortunately that doesn’t hinder the film as a whole and only compromises one or two moments. The flea gag that Chaplin had been trying to work into his films for his entire career finally appears and it is immediately clear why the act never properly merged with a past project. Here, in the context of the story of a fading comedian, the gag fits as well as it ever could have. The moments of Limelight shared by Chaplin & Buster Keaton are especially poignant and marks the end of an era where clowns and high art were synonymous.