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How American History Influenced the Movie Industry


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How American History Influenced The Movie Industry?
The period of 1960’s is known as one of the most creative periods in the history of the Hollywood filmmaking. It was prominent due to usage of new narrative and style techniques in presenting changes in American values in the film industry at that time. The period of 60’s is known as a period of change, which was carrying an idea that the goal American society sets, can be successfully achieved. The most common topic in the movies of that period was America’s role in the World, as well as it’s controversial position. President of the US at that time, John Kennedy was promising that before the end of the decade men will step on the moon. He also lobbied for the civil right movement and the Civil Rights Act, which emphasized the end of the period of long segregation in the South. The latter finally gave the same amount of equality to Whites and Blacks. However, the decade ended with the Watts riots. All of these occasions summarized gave a clear sign that there was something wrong happening in America.
The movies of 60’s were a way to respond to social movements, which were connected with the issues of civil rights, poverty, and feminism. Films were not only the representation of public view on the issues taking place in America, but also presented the favorable outcomes of values and institutions. Movies produced during the 60’s exposed the new figures to the audience. In addition, they presented the ways of thinking and suggested social realities together or separately from the social reality construction. Those alternative figures and representations were just as important as new institutions and laws, which did happen with the actions of Blacks, students, and women in the streets together with the legislatures. Resistance had become the nature of American culture. Movements representing the period of 1960’s contained several issues: the Blacks struggling for Civil rights, Vietnam War, feminist movement, and the New Left student movement. Also, that period was remarkable by the growing dissatisfaction level of the young the middle-class whites, who were concerned about the values of fifties in America, corporate jobs, sexuality, and social conformity. The rebels were dropping out of schools, growing long hair, listening to rock n roll, taking drugs and creating alternative lifestyles. Those alienated and rebellious teenagers also found their reflection in the movies of the period of 60s.
In the period of 1960’s the movie industry was highly influenced by the issues occurring in the state. Increasing popularity of television and the decline in the movie audiences made most of the American film companies diversify with other forms of entertainment, such as publishing, TV movies, and TV series. Meanwhile, there were big social changes such as fashion, rock’n’roll, and shift in the cultural values happening in the American society. Until the end of that period all the changes occurring in the American society, like social chaos, permissive sexuality, were highly popular as themes for the Hollywood movies.
One of the first movies that turned out to be very successful and focused on the youth separation and alienation topics was “The Graduate”. Not very famous and experienced director, Mike Nichols, made it. The main character of the movie is an unfortunate man, Benjamin Braddock (performed by Dustin Hoffman), who graduated from a college and experienced an affair with two women at the same time: Mrs. Robinson and her daughter Elaine. The movie emphasizes the age difficulties of the recent, hopeless students, who graduated from college: “This is Benjamin. He’s little worried about his future.” Audience liked and accepted the idea of young generation, which was confused, misunderstood, troubled, and seduced by the disgraced older generation. Also, one can notice the difference of two generations in the example of Mrs. Robinson and Elaine--mother and daughter, committed and hesitant. While watching the movie, one can see how “soft” Benjamin’s personality is. During the college years he was a debate champion. However, he could hardly manage to form a sentence correctly or to express his opinion on the ongoing events. His uncertainty is obvious in his behavior: he is scared of his relationship with Mrs. Robinson. Thus, Mrs. Robinson is presented as a very vulnerable, yet obnoxious, and manipulative woman. She is also very insecure, which is becomes clear when she forbids Benjamin to see Elaine, which is unbearable for him. “His rejection of her at the moment might look moral, but given the depth and anguish of her emotional experience, it’s a pretty ugly, unfeeling response.” which shows the level of confidence and self-awareness in her. There is a level of absurdity, which is present throughout the whole movie, starting with Benjamin’s relationship with Mrs. Robinson and ending with his sudden proposal to Elaine. It seems that he is experiencing a sudden wake-up call from his lethargic sleep and comes up to the idea of rebel against the society. In my opinion, it happened because all his life until that moment, he was forced by his family to do what he did not really want to do, and to find a better “purpose” in his life. Benjamin is forbidden to walk out of his parents’ space and from the space of his affairs with Mrs. Robinson (parent’s pool which is located outdoors and the hotel room where all his affairs happened). The issue concerning the society which was worrying Benjamin the most was that the elder generation was having certain expectations for the younger ones. For example Benjamin’s birthday, where Benjamin feels absolutely frustrated seeing people partying. In his it was pointless and stupid. Mike Nichols in his movie is trying to show the helplessness and aimlessness of the young generation of the 1960’s period. However, at the end Benjamin and Elaine manage to escape from his parents’ wealth. Thus, he realizes the success awaiting for them, and they leave to freedom and happiness.
Another movie that is emphasizing cultural and social changes happening at that time is “Easy Rider”. What differs “The Graduate” and “Easy Rider” is that in the second movie society was actually in favor of these social-cultural shifts happening in America at that period. Not considering the fact that hippies were accepted as something conservative, it actually was handy in spreading the ecology movements and protection of the environments, which later on lead to the social and antinuclear movements of the late 1970s and the Greenpeace. The way topic is widen in the Easy Rider movie is male and individualistic, but this did not interrupt the spread of health directed movements which were questioning what is to be normal and was having main idea of the psychological cost of living in the capitalist world. The movie starts with Wyatt and Billy reselling kilogram of cocaine, which will become the source budget of their trip across the continent. While watching the movie, we are following them on their pointless ride through the desert, abandoning beautiful women, and sex & drugs. During some of the moments one more protagonist joins them in their journey-smart and drunk lawyer, Hanson. The most surprising thing about the attitude the main heroes get is the hatred, which they are facing everywhere they go. During one of those expressions of hatred by the society, Hanson is being killed while being asleep by an angry mob or rednecks.
When reaching New Orleans the travelers go for hookers and start an acid trip in the cemetery. The movie ends with the scene when both of the main characters are killed by the rednecks in the pick-up. The movie is expressing the “us against them”- free moto-rides lovers against the hillbillies, the topic very popular at the age of 1970s. The whole movie was made without any script and is an example of independently produced films, which lets the watchers observe the real play of the actors. The ending scene is showing the loss of hope that came at the end of decade and captured the sense of doom, that was used in most of the movies of the period of 60-70s.
“Apocalypse Now” (1979) is a masterpiece produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which is represented as a symbolic and surrealistic sequence about confusion, violence and fear of the Vietnam War. FT The movie shows attitude of American society towards atrocities, which were done by American soldiers during the war. “Apocalypse now” is an anti-war movie, which is showing the madness of war and how people were fighting over democracy and freedom. While watching the movie we can see how American soldiers treat civilians and instead of imprisoning, they kill them, which is absolutely against the rules of war. There were two basic fights going on during the Vietnamese War- Americans were fighting to go home, and Vietnamese were fighting for their homes and freedom. In one of the scenes we observe a team of American journalists filming soldiers while an operation and asking them not to look in the camera, which shows that war was seen more as a type of entertainment.
The main character is called Willard, who used to be a captain and is suffering from a nervous breakdown after his first visit to Vietnam. His behavior is very disturbing, which can be seen from the scene where two men are knocking at his door. He could barely stand up and open it, because he hit the mirror with his fist while hallucinating. Looking at Willard, one can see how war can damage person’s mental health, and the only thing he is dreaming of is getting back to war. Afterwards, Willard is sent on a mission to assassin Connell Kurtz (highest ranking military official). This mission is an example of hypocrisy, since the U.S military, at the time of senseless killing, decides to waste lives and energy of people to kill someone who may be even dead already. The weird thing in the movie is that we are not sure why military wants Kurtz dead, because what he actually did was killing two people, who were working against the Unites States. Another absurd scenes is when the Captain and his crew find themselves at the show organized by Playboy and staged for the American military forces. At that point Coppola emphasizes the comparison between American and Vietnamese soldiers: while American soldiers were dribbling over those dancing women, Vietnamese soldiers were struggling for their lives.
The last movie about the condition of American society of 1970’s is the “Taxi Driver” by Martin Scorcese. Everything happening in 1970’s was a consequence of Nixon and Carter’s governments and New York was at the edge of going bankrupt, while city was spending a lot of money on the Bicentennial Celebration. There was a huge gap between poor and rich people, when the middle class was growing even further that the rich. That is why the city was attracting more and more poor and leading low-life people, which are best described by the main character “a polluted cesspool of whores, pimps and maniacs.” The movie is about Travis, a war veteran, who is evidently not used to living among people. It becomes obvious when he takes on a date the campaign manager Betsy to watch an adult movie. When Betsy started avoiding him, Travis put all his hatred together against one important person, just as Sirhan Sirhan when trying to assassin Kennedy. Travis did not succeed in killing the presidential candidate, and decided to free an under aged prostitute by killing the pimp and becoming a hero overnight.
Since the invention of the motion pictures, the movies were reflecting the state of the American society. The directors of the movies were showing their attitude, which was mostly critical, through the movies they made. All the changes happening in America in 60’s and 70’s such as social turmoil, establishment, questioning, political assassinations, permissive sexuality, and human rights revolts were fully shown and expressed in the movies of that period.

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