If I had to pick one decade as my favorite for movies, I think I would have to go with the 1960s. Picking my six favorite movies from that decade? That’s a little more difficult. (It’s hard enough to limit myself to six favorites from a single year of the decade.) After much debate, I’ve decided on the following films (listed chronologically), though there are probably about two dozen other titles that could just as easily have made the cut.
“That Monday, December 21st, I suddenly knew, without a doubt, that Françoise would be my wife,” protagonist Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) declares in voiceover near the beginning of Éric Rohmer’s 1969 film My Night at Maud’s. Unlike the preceding entries in the director’s Six Moral Tales series, My Night at Maud’s — officially the third tale, though it was shot and released fourth due to scheduling conflicts — eschews narration almost entirely, rendering this statement all the more noteworthy. It’s also quite surprising, in that he doesn’t actually know Françoise (Marie-Christine Barrault).
At one point in Claude Lelouch’s 1966 film A Man and a Woman, Jean-Louis Duroc (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne Gauthier (Anouk Aimée) find themselves discussing cinema:
Jean-Louis: When something’s not serious, we say it’s like a film. Why aren’t films taken seriously, do you think?
Anne: I don’t know. Maybe because we go when everything’s okay.
Jean-Louis: So we should go when it’s not?
Anne: Why not?
Ironically, approaching A Man and a Woman itself with a serious mindset may well be to its detriment.
During an early scene in Dino Risi’s 1962 film Il Sorpasso, Bruno Cortona (Vittorio Gassman) tells Roberto Mariani (Jean-Louis Trintignant) to put on a Domenico Modugno record. “This song drives me crazy,” Bruno says. “It seems so simple, but it’s got everything: loneliness, inability to communicate, and that stuff that’s all the rage now — alienation, like in Antonioni’s films. Did you see L’Eclisse? I fell asleep. Had a nice nap. Great director, Antonioni.” At least on the surface, Risi’s road trip comedy has little in common with Michelangelo Antonioni’s somber meditations on modern life, such as L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962). As the movie goes on, though, Bruno’s description of the Modugno song becomes more and more applicable to Il Sorpasso itself.