My NEW PJMedia post isn’t a traditional “Best Of” list — I’ve divided the movie’s into loose themes, and included later films that were set in the decade and captured its particular atmosphere.
Closely related to the previous category, the Seventies political/”paranoid thriller” is a fruitful if depressing subgenre.
In many ways the offspring of film noir and Hitchcock’s “wrong man” movies, the ubiquitous paranoid thriller depicted a single individual trying to crack some incredible, world-historical conspiracy, and being crushed in the process.
Relentlessly cynical and grim, these movies captured the (flagging, suspicious) spirit of the times – and arguably made those very times much worse than they had to be. If conspiracy theories are “history for stupid people” then these movies made America dumber – and a colder, scarier place.
Most people would pick The Parallax View to illustrate this genre. I’m going with The Conversation. At this late date, can we finally stop calling this unrelentingly grim movie about a lonely audio surveillance expert a “forgotten Seventies gem”? Bring your patience, though: The Conversation is a slow burn compared to the fireworks of The Parallax View.
In The Conversation, human beings seem especially tiny, fragile and vulnerable. Ordinary gestures, words and everyday objects are subtly imbued with menacing import. The Conversation boasts the most terrifying toilet in American cinema. You’ll watch what you say for a week.
There are, understandably, countless movies about watching (Blow Up, Peeping Tom, The Projectionist) but very few – except for this one, and the unfairly slagged Blow Out – about listening.