The films of 1968
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
(Sergio Leone) Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, the film’s co-writers, spent days discussing their favourite western tropes with Leone and somehow managed to combine them all into one immensely entertaining package (Claudia Cardinale, right).
PLANET OF THE APES
(Franklin J Schaffner) “You maniacs! You blew it up!” Contemporaneous concerns about race are addressed sideways and worries about nuclear war are tackled head on in this timeless sciencefiction parable (below). Roddy McDowall is less creepy when wearing a monkey mask. SHAME (Ingmar Bergman) What would serious cinema do without troubled marriages? Max von Sydow and Liv Ulmann do great work as a couple coping badly with the advance of war. The modern world is elsewhere. ROSEMARY’S BABY (Roman Polanski) One of the great New York films. One of the great horror films. One of the great films. The perennially creepy Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes become entangled with Satanists. Polanski retains an icily unsettling tone.
(Lindsay Anderson) It took a fantastically posh Englishman to put the revolution on the screen. Anderson’s film, in which Malcolm McDowell wields an angry Bren gun, does exhibit a certain clumsiness – the school is society, see – but it remains gripping and blackly funny.
(Mel Brooks) “My blue blanket!” Only 20 years after the war ended, Brooks dares to tell a few Hitler jokes. Here, the counter-culture still seems to be run by 1950s beatniks. Never mind. It’s still gut-bustingly funny.
JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME
(Alain Resnais) Underrated film by the French master in which, following a time-travel experiment, a man is forced to relive incidents from his past in random order. At the time, the rest of France was too busy throwing bricks at gendarmes to make movies.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
(Stanley Kubrick) At times purposely tedious, at others disconcertingly psychedelic, Kubrick’s film (below) has defied its many detractors – most mainstream critics slammed it on release – to survive as a thrilling speculation on a future now passed. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (George A Romero) When the streets are taken over by shambling hordes – in this case, the undead – society responds with hysteria and unreason. Soon, gun-toting rednecks are out hunting black folk. The film was finished on the day Martin Luther King was shot. It shows. THE ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN (Peter Lennon) Grim streets. Censorship everywhere. Fr Michael Cleary stomping about the place like the oaf he was. Good grief, Ireland was miserable in 1968. Still, Lennon’s film, shot by the great Raoul Coutard, remains a cracking piece of work.