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New American Cinema

New American Cinema

In the midsixties, U.S. theater attendance was declining. Bloated epics, mindless star vehicles, and juvenile musicals had become standard Hollywood fare, and the public was no longer interested. Then came the shock to the system of Bonnie and Clyde, and a renaissance was under way; radical new filmmakers, influenced by the foreign art cinema that was in vogue as well as the avant-garde and documentary techniques, rose to prominence, both within and outside of the studio system. Audiences hungry for something different, engaged, political, and raw were buying tickets (at least at first). Astonishing success stories like Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, John Cassavetes’ Faces, and Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces ushered in a new era in which the auteur was king and unlikely movie stars played rough-around-the-edges antiheroes, giving birth to the daring careers of such artists as Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Ellen Burstyn, Brian De Palma, Shelley Duvall, Monte Hellman, Terrence Malick, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Gena Rowlands, and Sissy Spacek. Unfortunately, this period of experimentation wouldn’t last forever, as the bottom-line, blockbuster mentality would creep back in, leaving ambitious auteurs adrift. But the films that did get made during that time (a selection of which you can see below) remain emblems of a fertile period in American cinema.