The stories of four films from 1964

The 1960s, a decade of change. How did we move from post-war idealism to stagnant, 70s cynicism? As always, the art of the era leaves us some clues. Dr Sheldon Hall looks at one of the most influential decades for the next season of Film Studies at Showroom Cinema.

Across eight weeks, we’ll dive into new waves and cold-war anxieties, watching four films from four countries (Britain, the USA, France and Japan), all released in 1964.

Film Studies: Sixty Years Ago starts on 27 March with The Pumpkin Eater (directed by Jack Clayton). A superb performance from Anne Bancroft anchors this impressionistic profile of one woman’s emotional breakdown. Ambitious in its plot and style, the film owed more to the art cinema emerging in Europe at the time, than the recently exhausted northern new wave.  

Next, we head across the pond for Seven Days in May (dir. John Frankenheimer) on 10 April. A political thriller, penned by Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone, it’s a showcase of tension and alienation that established Frankenheimer as one of Hollywood’s most vital new talents. A star-studded cast of Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Ava Gardner try to hold their nerve, as plotters in a military coup during escalating Cold War tensions. 

Then onto France, where The New Wave had reached its high-water mark by ‘64. The Soft Skin (La Peau Douce) (24 April), directed by François Truffaut, never quite captured the acclaim of his earlier efforts (The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim) but deserves it all the same. Lonely and noir-ish, the story of an extra-marital affair between a middle-aged publisher (Jean Desailly) and a much younger air hostess (Françoise Dorléac) is just as existential as the best of its era.  

Finally, Japan, with a screening of Onibaba (dir Kaneto Shindô) on 8 May. Nightmare-fuel from 60 years past, the film fuses period drama and horror. Just the image of the titular demon’s mask has had a resounding impact on Japanese culture and the horror genre ever since. A slow-burning story of guilt, it follows an army deserter, a mother and her daughter-in-law who murder a waylaid samurai for their armour and weapons. 

In the weeks between each screening, join Dr.Hall, as he dives into the cultures, politics and histories of the nations that produced these enduring stories. Season passes, which include the four films and lectures, start from £40 for CINE 26 members. Book now: 


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