It has been 50 years since 1967 and it struck us at Senses of Cinema that not only was this a notable anniversary, but that it also made for an interesting throughline to our cultural experience in the world, and in the cinema in 2017. 1967 was a significant period for a multitude of reasons. Multiple nations found themselves involved in the Vietnam War, which played out not just within the nation under fire, but before viewers of nightly news bulletins who became witness to the devastation wrought through ideological conflict in their living rooms. Next door to Vietnam the Khmer Rouge and the Kingdom of Cambodia began their bloody battle as communist and democratic belief systems fought for dominance. In the US, anti-war protests gained traction, and university campuses became the locus for challenging the systems of the establishment, but also bred new approaches to art, literature and cinema. The Prague Spring was approaching in Czechoslovakia, Hong Kong saw protests between striking workers and police and in Australia, a referendum was passed that finally recognised the indigenous people of the country as a part of the population. Worldwide, youth movements challenged long established cultural traditions. The musical Hair opened off Broadway.

With such ideological and cultural turmoil during this time, it’s no surprise that cinema saw a similar period of change in 1967. The New Wave cinemas emerging from Europe challenged social and cinematic expectations, toyed with narrative structure and character identification. The graduates of the newly formed film schools in the US – those that became known as the movie brats – got their start with some landmark films. The collapse of the US Production Code, which had been enforced since 1934 heralded a dramatic shift in the content permissible in their cinema. A year earlier in 1966, Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf controversially skated through Code approval despite its profanity. By 1967, Antonioni’s Blow-Up was released completely without that approval (a film that won the Grand Prix at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival after being released in December the previous year).  Independent film challenged the status quo through documentary, through riffs on popular genre, and in exploitation cinema from across the globe. The standards by which the world had been judged in the past: ideology; gender; sexuality; patriarchy; modernity; ambition; they all came under the interrogatory eye of the global cinema of 1967. It is the year when international conflict, generational change and social revolution made anything possible. And the extraordinary cinema of this time appears here in a selection of just some of the films that shaped that moment 50 years ago.

This dossier is simply called “1967: Love Letters” to make it clear from the outset that what lies within are not necessarily the ‘best’ or ‘most important’ films of 1967 – although some certainly would fall into those categories – but are the movies released that year that left the most powerful impression on our writers. In the case of European cinema, Maura Edmond explores Éric Rohmer’s La Collectioneuse, Eloise Ross on Dušan Makavejev’s Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator, Sandra Lim on Jacques Tati’s Playtime and Simon Weaver on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up.  Kat Ellinger looks to Brazil at José Mojica Marins (aka Coffin Joe) and his film This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and from Japan, Alexia Kannas celebrates the recently departed Seijun Suzuki’s glorious Branded to Kill.  British cinema has not been ignored, with Dean Brandum writing on Joseph Losey’s Accident, Amy Simmons on Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade, Luke Goodsell on Peter Watkins’ Privilege, and Julien Allen on Bryan Forbes’s The Whisperers. In terms of US cinema, David Surman writes on the animated Disney film The Jungle Book, Rachel Brown on Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, Justine Smith on John Huston’s Reflection in a Golden Eye and Michael Ewins on Peter Emanuel Goldman’s Echoes of Silence. And short films have not been overlooked: Emma Westwood writes a love letter to David Cronenberg’s student film From the Drain, while Anton Bitel explores David Lynch’s Six Men Getting Sick, made in 1966 but exhibited for the first time in 1967. Senses of Cinema editors Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Mark Freeman and Danny Fairfax join in the fun with love letters to Volker Schlöndorff’s A Degree of Murder, Mark Robson’s Valley of the Dolls, Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend respectively.

Just as important as what we have included of course is what we haven’t. It would be at best naïve of us to claim this is anywhere near an exhaustive overview of the impressive global output of cinema in 1967, and the films our writers have selected here reflect their own passions – hence the “love letters” of the dossier’s title – rather than the creation of any canonical hierarchy. Amongst the editorial staff alone there are numerous other films we could write endless love letters to from this year, including (but not limited to) Soleil O (Med Hondo, 1967), Ram Aur Shyam (Tapi Chanakya, 1967), I, A Man (Andy Warhol, 1967), Separation (Jack Bond, 1967, written and starring Jane Arden), I Am Curious (Yellow) (Vilgot Sjöman, 1967), Oedipus Rex (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967), Entranced Earth (Glauber Rocha, 1967), Who’s That Knocking at My Door (Martin Scorsese, 1967), Portrait of Chieko (Noboru Nakamura, 1967), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967), Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967),  Woman Despiser (Kadin düsmani, Ilhan Engin, 1967), Peppermint Frappé (Carlos Saura, 1967), Scattered Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1967) and a curious 15-minute short film called Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB by a young man at the University of Southern California’s film school by the name of George Lucas.

The limits to this dossier are governed only by the selections of our writers themselves. As they have shared their love letters with us, we encourage you to reflect upon this extraordinary year in film history with your own stories of romance. We hope this dossier inspires you to revisit and remember the films of 1967, just as it has us.

If you would like to read further at Senses of Cinema about films that were released in 1967, we are proud to direct you towards these pieces from our extensive archive as a starting place:

Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) by David Melville
Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) by Bonnie Lennon
La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Goddard, 1967) by Darragh O’Donoghue
Closely Observed Trains (Jirí Menzel, 1967) by Roger Hillman
Le départ (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1967) by Bruce Hodson
Dont Look Back (D. A. Pennebaker, 1967) by Tim O’Farrell
The Fearless Vampire Killers (Roman Polanski, 1967) by Darragh O’Donoghue
The Firemen’s Ball (Miloš Forman, 1967) by Pedro Blas Gonzalez
Marketa Lazarová (František Vláčil, 1967) by John Edmond
Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) by Adrian Danks
Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967) by Temenuga Trifonova
Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi, 1967) by Frederick Blichert
The Stranger (Luchino Visconti, 1967) by Joanna Di Mattia
Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman, 1967) by Michael Price
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) by Hamish Ford
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) by Rodney F. Hill

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