Between 1967 and 1976 a number of extraordinary factors converged to produce an uncommonly adventurous era in the history of American film. The end of censorship, the decline of the studio system, economic changes in the industry, and demographic shifts among audiences, filmmakers, and critics created an unprecedented opportunity for a new type of Hollywood movie, one that Jonathan Kirshner identifies as the "seventies film." In Hollywood’s Last Golden Age, Kirshner shows the ways in which key films from this periodincluding Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, The Graduate, and Nashville, as well as underappreciated films such as The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Klute, and Night Moveswere important works of art in continuous dialogue with the political, social, personal, and philosophical issues of their times.
These "seventies films" reflected the era’s social and political upheavals: the civil rights movement, the domestic consequences of the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, the end of the long postwar economic boom, the Shakespearean saga of the Nixon Administration and Watergate. Hollywood films, in this brief, exceptional moment, embraced a new aesthetic and a new approach to storytelling, creating self-consciously gritty, character-driven explorations of moral and narrative ambiguity. Although the rise of the blockbuster in the second half of the 1970s largely ended Hollywood’s embrace of more challenging films, Kirshner argues that seventies filmmakers showed that it was possible to combine commercial entertainment with serious explorations of politics, society, and characters’ interior lives.
Jonathan Kirshner is Professor of Government at Cornell University. He is the author most recently of Appeasing Bankers: Financial Caution on the Road to War and the coeditor of The Future of the Dollar, also from Cornell.
Prologue1. Before the Flood2. Talkin' ’bout My Generation3. 1968, Nixon, and the Inward Turn4. The Personal Is Political5. Crumbling Cities and Revisionist History6. Privacy, Paranoia, Disillusion, and Betrayal7. White Knights in Existential Despair8. Businessmen Drink My WineAppendix: 100 Seventies Films of the Last Golden AgeNotes Index
What People are Saying About This
"Jonathan Kirshner argues forcefully and astutely that questing, questioning films from the late '60s into the ’70s pushed their audience into consequential dialogue and debate. In like fashion, Kirshner’s book does the same to powerful ends: Hollywood’s Last Golden Age impels its readers to engage actively with the films and their times, and it opens a conversation that is fruitful and far reaching. It is a sharp, intelligent book about a moment when cinema really mattered aesthetically and politically."
Edward D. Berkowitz
"Jonathan Kirshner writes fluidly on the political developments of the seventies and the history of the film industry in a way that will appeal to a wide range of readers who lived through the decade and experienced such films as Chinatown and The Godfather in a visceral way. This is the rare book that can be read with interest and profit by scholars and the general public alike–a valuable addition to the growing literature on the seventies and an interesting take on the films of that decade."
"In Hollywood's Last Golden Age, Jonathan Kirshner does a very good job of placing many now-classic movies in relation to the cultural ferment underway in the 1970s. Kirshner draws expertly on a huge range of sources to construct an elegant sociopolitical and cinematic history of the era."
"Neophytes and scholars alike will learn a great deal from Jonathan Kirshner's engaging story of the last great period of American filmmaking. Younger readers may benefit most of all from this clear-eyed analysis of the terrifically interesting cultural politics of the predigital visual world."
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