Anthology Film Archives


June 17 – June 26

Did the American movie musical die with DR. DOOLITTLE? Definitely not! This June, Anthology sets out to prove that movies went on singing and dancing throughout Vietnam, Watergate, Women’s Lib, stagflation, and the energy crisis. Though the mood was less hospitable to the genre’s optimism, the 70s had no shortage of musicals, from existential critiques of showbiz to rockin’ sex comedies.

The series begins in the aftermath of the Beatles breakup, with 200 MOTELS, Tony Palmer and Frank Zappa’s experimental musical starring Ringo as Zappa. It ends on the eve of MTV with Herbert Ross’s emotional deconstruction of pop music in the American psyche, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN. Between these cultural benchmarks, disco and punk emerge, along with more nuanced trends, like groovy ‘Me Decade’ self-help crusades (THE WIZ) and nostalgic revivals of Old Hollywood art deco (NEW YORK, NEW YORK and AT LONG LAST LOVE) and doo-wop/surf-rock bubblegum (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE).

Clearing away the cobwebs, common threads are elusive. It’s tempting to use the word ‘postmodern’, but is anything in this lineup really darker, campier, more ironic, or more self-reflexive than GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933? Such was the rich diversity of 70s “Hollywood” that half of these films were produced outside California. Some are independent, low-budget creations, others Broadway-export mega-productions. Celebrity filmmakers Scorsese, De Palma, Lumet, Altman, and Bogdanovich bring their signatures to the genre. Bob Fosse co-writes and directs ALL THAT JAZZ, a psychotropic, semi-autobiographical extravaganza – terrain weirdly similar to 200 MOTELS. And Roger Corman casts Joey Ramone as a heartthrob bedroom balladeer in ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. Unorthodoxy is indeed the norm, but even purists will vouch for the genius choreography in THE LITTLE PRINCE (Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass”) and PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (Christopher Walken’s “Let’s Misbehave”).

This medley of musicals puts critical darlings together in the spotlight with historic train wrecks. Let’s face the music! –Leah Churner

Curated by Leah Churner; special thanks to Nick Pinkerton, Brian Block (Criterion USA), Kathryn Brennan (Paramount), Paul Ginsburg (Universal), Jim Orr (MGM), Caitlin Robertson (20th Century Fox), Germaine Simiens (New Horizons Picture Corp.), Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive), and Marilee Womack & Sean Domachowski (Warner Bros.).

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