Encouraged by the great success of fringe films with the audience, more and more major studio producers invested into director-driven projects (“auteur-style”) by the end of the 1960s and beginnings of the 1970s. The films produced during this period still stand out through their edgy topicality, radical aesthetics, and sometimes unique philosophy depth. New about this generation of filmmakers were not only their ideas but also their approach to film making. While their predecessors usually had to learn their craft through working as assistant directors in the studios, they learned the art as students in film schools.
In our breakout session, we will look especially into Richard C. Serbian’s Vanishing Point (1971) and Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972).
Vanishing Point: Professional driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) takes a bet to ride his Dodge Challenger R/T from Colorado to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. On his way he fights obstacles and gains supporters, like a blind radio DJ (Cleavon Little) who is able to scan the broadcasts of the police… A typical example of a cult movie, this film was a critical as well as a financial failure upon its release in the US. However, after being successful in Europe, the film was re-released in a double bill with The French Connection (1971). Running in drive-in theaters and on TV afterwards, the film since then has gained a respectable cult following. Steven Spielberg has named it among his favorite movies (there are some analogies to his 1971 film Duel), and Quentin Tarantino paid his homage to it in Death Proof (2007). A remake was done for TV in 1997, and Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly seems currently to plan another remake for the big screen.
The film was shot on a low budget of 1,6 Million US $, but gained over the years more than 12 Million US $ at the box office. Despite its many locations, the film was shot in just 38 days (instead of 60 planned days due to a sudden budget shortage through the studio) with – for its days – light-weight ARRI II cameras and a small crew of 19 (excluding actors).
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask: A descendant of Russian and Austrian Jewish immigrants, Woody Allen started his career as a writer for jokes and became successful as such at the early age of Seventeen. After his graduation he became a playwright, and wrote his first movie script in 1965 for the comedy What’s New Pussycat?. A year later he took the opportunity to direct his first first film What’s Up Tiger Lily? in which he took an existing Japanese spy movie (Kokusai himitsu keisatsu) and re-dubbed it in English with new comic dialogue. After Allen directed, starred in, and co-wrote Take the Money and Run in 1969, he got a deal with United Artists for several films, including Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex…, which became one of his biggest financial hits grossing domestically 18 M US $ against a 2 M US $ budget, ranking on place 13 among the year’s highest grossing films. Since then, Allen, who also could be considered as the father of the modern romantic comedy, has received four Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplays for Annie Hall, 1978, Hannah and Her Sisters, 1987, and Midnight in Paris, 2011, and Best Director, again for Annie Hall) and more screenwriting Academy Award nominations than any other writer. And although he had hits and misses at the box office and a row of sexual scandals, he fully has recovered with Midnight in Paris (2011) gaining more than 50 M US $ revenues on the domestic market. Despite friendly recognition from the Academy, Allen has consistently refused to attend the ceremony. Back in 1974, Woody was quoted by ABC News as saying, “The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t”.