We continue our survey of the Twenty Greatest Movies of the 1960s.
For the Twenty Greatest Movies of the 1950s, click here.
For the Twenty Greatest Movies of the 1940s, click here.
For the Twenty Greatest Movies of the 1930s click here.
For the Twenty Greatest Movies of the 1920s click here.
4. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962.
Movies are time capsules.
We view a Hollywood production from, say, the 1930s and we get a series of messages—visual and verbal—that are instant snapshots of the culture from which the narrative was birthed. There are, of course, the fashions, the hairstyles, even the make up, that let us us know that we are in a particular time and place. And of course, the narratives are witnesses to how society viewed itself. The attitudes and values of American culture are on full display, in all their myriad forms, in the movies.
Some movies date better than others. The screwball comedies of the 1930s still play beautifully for contemporary audiences because the battle of the sexes is timeless. Sadly, the women’s weepies of the 40s—take a look at Now Voyager (’42), an amazing Bette Davis film—fare less well because they are seen by today’s women as regressive and misogynistic. Busby Berkeley musicals are fun, admired for their abstraction of the human form, but they are relics, kitch for the priests of high culture.
And this is one of the reasons why The Manchurian Candidate is such an astonishing movie. It is deeply contemporary, post-modernism before the term was invented.