Voice Critics: Best Films of 1961


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January 11, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 12

The Year’s Best

By Jonas Mekas

I have asked a few independent film critics and writers whose opinions I respect for their lists of the better films they have seen during the past year. A note must be made that none of them have seen all the films released in 1961. Some of them have seen films not yet released. Here are their choices:

ARLENE CROCE: “L’Avventura,” “Two Women,” “Throne of Blood,” “The Hustler,” “Breathless,” “Science Friction,” “and also Antonioni’s “Le Amiche,” which was shown last year although unsubtitled.

ANDREW SARRIS: “Breathless,” “Two Rode Together,” “L’Avventura,” “King of Kings,” “The Young One,” “Savage Innocents,” “White Nights,” “Leda,” “Zazie,” “Underworld, U.S.A.”

PETER BOGDANOVICH: 1961 was a highly disappointing year for movies. Some of the pictures in the list are included simply because of the dearth of good titles; in a better year they wouldn’t even place. Of the English-speaking films I most admired “Two Rode Together,” “The Savage Innocents,” “The Young One,” and “The Last Sunset”; I also liked a good deal about “King of King,” “One-Eyed Jacks,” “El Cid,” “Pocketful of Miracles,” “The Innocents,” and the first 10 minutes of “West Side Story” (done by Jerome Robbins and the second-unit man). Though I have not yet seen “Marines, Let’s Go!” and “Underworld, U.S.A.,” I am sure they would merit inclusion. Of the foreign-language productions the best were “L’Avventura,” “Leda,” and “Breathless”; also effective were “The Five-Day Lover,” “Purple Noon,” “Ashes and Diamonds,” “Frantic,” and “Zazie.” I also liked many things, if not enough, about “Rocco and his Brothers”; and I haven’t yet seen “The Joker,” which I nkow I’d enjoy. But the finest “new” film, by far, that I saw has not been released in America, though it has been finished since 1955: “Mr. Arkadin,” by Orson Welles.

JERRY TALLMER: At the time I didn’t think so, but now I think that the single and only perhaps great movie I saw in 1961 was “L’Avventura.” It lasts. Others liked: “Two Women.” “Guns of Navarone,” “The Truth,” “Time of the Heathen,” some things in “Secrets of Women,” some things in the idea of “Guns of the Trees.” Greatest bore: “Breathless.” Greatest failure: “La Dolce Vita.” Can’t make up my mind about “The Connection.” Years ago I saw “Mr. Arkadin,” which Peter Bogdanovich ropes in this time, and it is wonderful.

JONAS MEKAS: “The Young One,” “Breathless,” “L’Avventura,” “Ashes and Diamonds,” “La Dolce Vita,” “Leda,” “From a Roman Balcony,” “Zazie,” “West Side Story” (first 10 minutes), “White Nights,” “Two Rode Together,” “Savage Innocents,” “Underworld, U.S.A.,” “A Cold Wind in August.” I haven’t seen “Blood and Roses” and Broca’s comedies, which I might have included. Best short films: “Sunday,” “Prelude,” “Anticipation of the Night,” “The Sin of Jesus,” “Journey Alone,” “Blazes.” I saw four great films in 1961, none released yet in this country: “A King in New York,” “Lola Montes,” “Shoot the Pianist,” “La Notte.”

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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 21, 2009


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