Voice Critics: Best Films of 1961

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January 11, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 12

The Year's Best

By Jonas Mekas

I have asked a few independent film critics and writers whose opinions I respect for their lists of the better films they have seen during the past year. A note must be made that none of them have seen all the films released in 1961. Some of them have seen films not yet released. Here are their choices:

ARLENE CROCE: "L'Avventura," "Two Women," "Throne of Blood," "The Hustler," "Breathless," "Science Friction," "and also Antonioni's "Le Amiche," which was shown last year although unsubtitled.

ANDREW SARRIS: "Breathless," "Two Rode Together," "L'Avventura," "King of Kings," "The Young One," "Savage Innocents," "White Nights," "Leda," "Zazie," "Underworld, U.S.A."

PETER BOGDANOVICH: 1961 was a highly disappointing year for movies. Some of the pictures in the list are included simply because of the dearth of good titles; in a better year they wouldn't even place. Of the English-speaking films I most admired "Two Rode Together," "The Savage Innocents," "The Young One," and "The Last Sunset"; I also liked a good deal about "King of King," "One-Eyed Jacks," "El Cid," "Pocketful of Miracles," "The Innocents," and the first 10 minutes of "West Side Story" (done by Jerome Robbins and the second-unit man). Though I have not yet seen "Marines, Let's Go!" and "Underworld, U.S.A.," I am sure they would merit inclusion. Of the foreign-language productions the best were "L'Avventura," "Leda," and "Breathless"; also effective were "The Five-Day Lover," "Purple Noon," "Ashes and Diamonds," "Frantic," and "Zazie." I also liked many things, if not enough, about "Rocco and his Brothers"; and I haven't yet seen "The Joker," which I nkow I'd enjoy. But the finest "new" film, by far, that I saw has not been released in America, though it has been finished since 1955: "Mr. Arkadin," by Orson Welles.

JERRY TALLMER: At the time I didn't think so, but now I think that the single and only perhaps great movie I saw in 1961 was "L'Avventura." It lasts. Others liked: "Two Women." "Guns of Navarone," "The Truth," "Time of the Heathen," some things in "Secrets of Women," some things in the idea of "Guns of the Trees." Greatest bore: "Breathless." Greatest failure: "La Dolce Vita." Can't make up my mind about "The Connection." Years ago I saw "Mr. Arkadin," which Peter Bogdanovich ropes in this time, and it is wonderful.

JONAS MEKAS: "The Young One," "Breathless," "L'Avventura," "Ashes and Diamonds," "La Dolce Vita," "Leda," "From a Roman Balcony," "Zazie," "West Side Story" (first 10 minutes), "White Nights," "Two Rode Together," "Savage Innocents," "Underworld, U.S.A.," "A Cold Wind in August." I haven't seen "Blood and Roses" and Broca's comedies, which I might have included. Best short films: "Sunday," "Prelude," "Anticipation of the Night," "The Sin of Jesus," "Journey Alone," "Blazes." I saw four great films in 1961, none released yet in this country: "A King in New York," "Lola Montes," "Shoot the Pianist," "La Notte."

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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