UPDATE: thanks to the loyal 5FF reader who alerted me to David Mills’ post at the First Things blog, which cites my PJMedia piece on the “schizophrenic” message of 60s and 70s movies.
This has struck me as well, how movies I’d always heard were great statements of liberation came down with a bump.
I’m not spoiling much when I tell you that nobody at the “key party” in The Ice Storm has a great “swinging” experience. Almost everyone involved is bitter or reluctant beforehand, or miserable later.
You might think this is because the movie was made in 1997, twenty five years after the fact, and reflects society’s reluctant acknowledgement that the freewheeling 1960s and 1970s were a long, loud, colorful multi-generational social disaster of the first order. (Albeit with a decent soundtrack.)
The filmmakers of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls era were supposedly overturning the studio system and its rigid Production Code, which demanded that sinners and villains die at the end of every movie, pour encourager les autres.
But looking back on films made during the 1960s and 70s, many of the most iconic ones are more like melodramatic morality plays than commercials for the sexual revolution. (…)
…so many seminal 60s and 70s films tease a message of liberation, but pull the trap of the gallows in their final last moments.
Why? Without the supposedly evil Hays Code to hamper them, why did all these daring young moviemakers keep employing the old tropes of cosmic justice? Residual Catholic or Jewish guilt? Lack of imagination? Did they find that “playing tennis without a net” wasn’t much fun after all?
Re-watching it for purposes of this column, I was stunned by how chilling the “abortion” scene in the original Alfie remains. And as you’ll see from the video I included at PJMedia, that subplot was cut out of the Jude Law remake.
BONUS — the 2003 Toyota Corolla “key party” parody ad: