Six Favorites from the Sixties

6 from the 1960s Blogathon

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.

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The Usual Unknowns: Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

“Stealing is a serious profession. You need serious people.”

Cosimo Proietti (Memmo Carotenuto) has just received a tip about a job that could make him a fortune and set him up for life. Oh, sure, it’s not exactly a legitimate enterprise — it entails breaking into a pawnshop on Rome’s (fictitious) Via delle Madonne through the empty apartment next door and opening a locked safe — but Cosimo isn’t the sort of man to quibble about legality. In fact, that’s the sole problem with this scheme: He’s already in jail for attempting to steal a car, and he isn’t scheduled to be released for over a year. His only hope is to convince someone else to claim responsibility for his crime, thereby setting him free. Although he offers to pay the scapegoat 100,000 lire, none of his acquaintances are willing to take the rap: Capannelle (Carlo Pisacane) would be facing a life sentence due to his past convictions, Mario (Renato Salvatori) fears upsetting his mother, Michele (Tiberio Murgia) doesn’t want to abandon his closely guarded sister Carmela (Claudia Cardinale) or jeopardize her upcoming marriage, and Tiberio (Marcello Mastroianni) not only has a prior offense but also has to take care of his baby son while his wife (Gina Rovere) serves time for smuggling cigarettes. “Guys, you’ll never get an ex-con for 100,000 lire,” Tiberio tells the others. “You need someone with a clean record.”

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“It seems so simple, but it’s got everything”: Il Sorpasso (1962)

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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.

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