After Talkies began but before the Motion Picture Code was installed because of narrow-minded dimwitted fundamentalist bumpkins worried about perverse and sexually arousing themes and images corrupting their stupid and worthless children, there was a tiny window of a few years in the early '30s where Hollywood made deep, dark, mature and interesting movies. This is one of the, if not the, most outstanding picture of that all-too-brief period.
Incredibly, when I was researching this movie for a public domain image to add, I was hoping to find a picture of the sweet young thing who got knocked up by the dissolute son of the up-from-nothing Department store magnate whose family and store are subject and setting. Turned out it was Gloria Stuart, who you saw 65 years later as Old Rose in Titanic.
Frankly, Scarlett, you have to give a damn about this movie. Even if you hate it, and personally, I think it's overrated and too long strictly as a motion picture, it cannot be denied that it is quintessential Americana. You can't be an American and not know this movie. One thing I do love is the opening scene with Scarlett's Gentlemen Callers--one of the buried gems of political discourse in American cinema. I never tire of it.
A fun movie, great music. Again, not necessarily all that great viewed strictly as a motion picture, but it's of critical import for two reasons: 1) It's the quintessential 1960s counter-culture film. If you know nothing else about the counter-culture except this movie, you know something. And if you don't know this movie, you know nothing; 2) It radically altered the way Hollywood film financing worked, opening up a "New Golden Age" in Hollywood (see the next three films) and pioneering the independent film production industry. (My full review/essay here).
Simply put, the best American film of the second half of the 20th century. Maybe the whole century. Utterly timeless performances by Robert DiNiro and Jody Foster, with perfect supporting performanes by Cybil Sheppard, Peter Boyle, et al. Great screenplay by Paul Schrader, great direction by Martin Scorsese and an ending that crushes you back motionless into your seat like a piano fell on you. Peerless.
Who said the Age of Prophecy is over? Who? You watch this movie and tell me the old Jew Paddy Chayfsky doesn't give those other old Jews in the Old Testament a run for their money. The speech by Ned Beatty as conglomerate CEO Arthur Jenson is another buried gem of political discourse. But don't click this link unless you've seen the film because it's ten times better in context.
Third movie of the 70s. So sue me. I have to leave out Godfather I and II and Apocalypse Now because of some dumb rule? Maybe. But not this movie. When I was in grad school, I turned a friend on to this movie even though it was eight years older than she was. She loved it because "They didn't punk out at the end." Sally Bowles did what she knew she was going to do, even though that wasn't very happy, and Hitler did what he knew he was going to do, and that certainly wasn't very happy. Don't listen to the soundtrack. You'll have an earworm for the rest of your life
I watched this Holocaust documentary in one sitting at the Copley Square Cinema the year it came out. All nine hours (with one intermission). Either Siskel or Ebert refused to put it in their Top Ten that year because it was too important, too great, too historic, too sacred, to be judged by the same profane standards usually applied to movies and by which we decide movies are "Top Ten for the Year." But I can put it in my Classic Eight. It was a privilege, almost an honor to have seen this film exactly as Claude Lanzmann intended it to be seen, in a theater, full-screen, nine hours. I know very, very few people had, have, or will have the opportunity I had to see it that way. I cherish the memory--and you don't usually say that about a movie.