My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Friday, January 7, 2022

January 7, 2022: 2022 Anniversaries: 1972 Films

[A few years back I started January by highlighting some of the historic anniversaries we’d be commemorating in the year to come. It was a fun series, so I thought I’d do the same this year with some 2022 anniversaries. Leading up to a special post on predictions for 2022!]

On three 1972 films that together capture the multiple layers to violence in America.

1)      The Godfather: In that early post I made the case for 1974’s The Godfather: Part II as one of the most impressive cinematic reflections on American identity and history, and I’d stand by that assessment; I think it’s significantly more thoughtful about such questions than the first film. It’s also at least a bit less violent (or at least contains fewer famous violent set-pieces than the first), and I think that’s actually a complex but key reason why it’s the first which has lingered so fully in our collective consciousness. I believe Coppola’s film is more clearly critical of that violence than the Scorsese gangster films I’ve critiqued in this space (and Part II is even more overtly critical of what such violence has turned Michael Corleone into); but critical or not, it represents another epic (in every sense) depiction of the central role of both sudden and organized violence in American society and culture.

2)      Deliverance: In that 2014 post I made the case that there’s a somewhat hidden but crucial layer to both the film and (especially) the 1970 James Dickey novel Deliverance which depicts collective, systematic violence targeting Appalachian and rural communities. Better remembering those contexts helps us think about the story’s much more overt violence, that targeting the four central characters, as one side in a broader and brutal conflict between rural and urban communities in late 20th century America—a conflict these characters have unwittingly but unquestionably brought with them to their rural getaway, or at least embody for the inhabitants of that rural world.

3)      Last House on the Left: I said in that post much of what I’d want to say about vengeance and vigilante violence in Wes Craven’s directorial debut. I’ll just add this: one of the biggest stories of late 2021 was the trial & acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man whose acts of illegal (whatever the verdict, I think their illegality is beyond question) vigilante violence were and are celebrated by many of my fellow Americans. There are lots of factors, historical and contemporary, in that fraught and divisive unfolding story—but we can’t understand it without including the longstanding embrace of vigilantes in America, a narrative that Craven’s brutal film at least partly contributes to.

Predictions this weekend,


PS. What do you think?

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