In the previous article, we talked about the Golden Age of Hollywood, which adhered to the style of classical Hollywood cinema – at least until the early 1960s. The decline of Hollywood’s Golden Age could be attributed to two main forces; intervention by the government and the rise of home television. From its ashes, however, rose New Hollywood and post-classical cinema, which catered the new demographic of coming-of-age baby boomers. The term New Hollywood was coined by the press, which oversaw the industry-wide recruitments of young filmmakers aimed to reach the young audience the film studios were losing. For this week, we’ve lined up few of the acclaimed early New Hollywood movies that would pave the way for the new generation of cinema.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Bonnie and Clyde is regarded as the defining film of the New Hollywood generation. The movie broke an endless list of cinematic taboos and captured the young audience the studios wanted to capture. Bonnie and Clyde is loosely based on a true story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Burrow, partners in crime and in real life. During the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde along with their gang were robbing along the central United States while killing people who were in their way. The movie, however, romanticizes this. Bonnie fell in love with Clyde in three instances:
Love at first sight, when Clyde tried to steal Bonnie’s mom’s jalopy.
Double love, when Clyde showed her his gun.
Triple love, when Clyde robbed a bank and she hopped onto his lap as Clyde drove away.
They’re too adorable to be criminals.
As you can clearly see, this isn’t PG-rated movie. Sex and violence are far from rare in this movie – although mostly are implied. Clyde Burrow is portrayed as impotent and his way of coping with it? Display his manhood with guns. And he ain’t shy to display his manhood. This extravagant display of graphic violence and mature contents became a muse – it prompted other filmmakers to incorporate these ingredients into their movies. Bonnie and Clyde’s ending is dubbed as “one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history”.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
It is impossible to not have heard 2001: A Space Odyssey in your entire life. Somehow, somewhere, someone must have mentioned and most probably praised it. This movie by Stanley Kubrick is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential movies ever made, which raised a conspiracy theory that the moon landing was actually produced by Stanley Kubrick. Conspiracy theory aside, the movie explored issues about the human race’s existence, ET life and even AI, with deeper philosophical implications on humanity’s origins and our destiny in the universe.
Released a mere few months before the first Apollo moon landing, the movie served as the basis of the following epic sci-fi movie, influencing big names like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Although 2001: A Space Odyssey is regarded as one of the pioneers of special effect, Kubrick avoided the use of fancy portrayal of space exploration and opted for a more realistic, scientifically accurate visualization. The petrifying portrayal of a sentient computer, however, shook the world and even incorporated into Disney’s WALL-E, where HAL is portrayed as AUTO, the autopilot which serves as the antagonist in this science fiction animation.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Loosely based on a true story, the movie follows a pair of outlaws; Robert LeRoy Parker (a.k.a Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longabaugh (a.k.a. The Sundance Kid). They led the Wild Bunch, a group of other outlaws which eventually robbed trains twice. Granted, the journey of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is sprinkled with horseback rides and Wild West duels while being chased by a paid-for posse.
They ran to Bolivia, where they became successful bank robbers called Los Bandidos Yanquis. However they gave up and tried ‘honest work’; but unsurprisingly, that didn’t work out. The movie ends with a freeze frame of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid storming out of the building with blazing guns into the Bolivian forces. The movie aside, the true fates of the pair are surrounded by conspiracy clouds; Butch is said to have survived the gunfight (portrayed as the ending of the movie) and went back to his hometown, Circleville in Utah. For the Sundance Kid, his death is even more uncertain than Butch Cassidy. It is claimed that the Sundance Kid changed his name and died in a small town in Utah, with speculations that his girlfriend was trying to get a death certificate for him in Chile’s US Embassy.
The early movies of New Hollywood signed a rebound in American cinema after the decline of Hollywood’s Golden Age. New Hollywood marked the shift in the storytelling methods; during the classical period, the industry acquired the most important ingredient for the New Hollywood: audience’s expectations. Their expectations were played upon by scrambled chronology, twist endings and blurred lines between the protagonist and the antagonist. New Hollywood movies don’t fill up the screen time with tying up loose ends – irresolution was the new climax. This shift towards more innovative works by the young filmmakers, however, reversed itself when the commercial success of Jaws and Star Wars made the studios realize the significance of blockbusters. Although the industry revived movies’ commercial successes with its peak in 1975, it declined and the end of the period was marked by the rise of home video market in the early 1980s. Despite its tragic, unaccounted for ending, New Hollywood brought forth an endless list of movies worthy of retelling and rewatching for decades to come. For me, at least, it’s my favourite period of all.