The mixture of political activism and popular culture often labeled ''the sixties'' in American social history had little impact on the Hollywood film industry during the decade of the 1960s. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was adopted by young audiences as an allegory of their feelings of alienation, but this film was a heavily disguised version of contemporary tensions. The Graduate (1968) is another example of youthful alienation, but Benjamin Braddock, protagonist of that film, is hardly an example of radical perception or activity. Though The Wild Bunch (1969) is about an outsider group, a film about aging gunslingers cannot be considered allegorical of youth in revolt. The film industry began to explicitly document youth culture and antiwar activism only in 1969-1970, with films such as Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Medium Cool, Woodstock, and M.A.S.H.
Even with this group of films, however, one gets a sense of isolated changes rather than a broad movement of social change. The various moments of social conflict and change in these movies are transitory or ephemeral. One sees anger against the Establishment, against the way things are, but not a broad movement of social change. Easy Rider does present a set of alternative lifestyles, but none of these appears successful or stable. For example, in the emblematic commune scene, the city kids turned farmers seem to be planting bone-dry fields, even though a canal runs through their property. Wyatt (Peter Fonda) declares of the commune ''They're going to make it,'' but for more-or-less objective viewers it's clear that this experiment is not going to last. In Midnight Cowboy, Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo fail to establish an alternative lifestyle in New York City. Medium Cool and Woodstock are both about transitory events, and in M.A.S.H. the antiestablishment doctors played by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland leave Korea after one tour of duty.1 In all these cases, the 1960s are presented as a moment of revolt, not as a set of long-lasting changes.
Paradoxically, although there is a dearth of high-quality films about the promise of the sixties, many noteworthy films have been made about the death of the sixties. As we have seen, Easy Rider already recounts the failure of an alternative vision (softened by the union with nature implied by the film's final shot). The ''death of the sixties'' became a prominent theme in American films in 1974-1976, when the catastrophic events of Watergate and the OPEC oil shock as well as the apparent lack of social change in the United States strongly suggested that the moment of social optimism was over. Numerous films—Chinatown, Nashville, The Parallax View, Night Moves, Shampoo, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest— described a loss of idealism and an omnipresent sense of social and political corruption. The sixties were regretted in a series of memorable films. The trend then continued, with films from the late 1970s and into the 1980s documenting and critiqueing the 1960s counterculture.
Chapter 3, ''Disaster and Conspiracy,'' has already dealt with a few of the ''end of the sixties'' films (notably Chinatown) in sketching out the ''conspiracy/mystery'' cycle of films as a reaction to disillusion and social crisis. This essay discusses five films dealing in a more direct, less genre-driven way with the end of the sixties. The films to be covered are Nashville, Shampoo, Between the Lines, The Return of the Secaucus Seven, and The Big Chill. Please note that the distinction between ''more direct'' and ''genre driven'' is descriptive rather than evaluative. Nashville does not readily fit into any generic category; Chinatown is a detective story and a mystery. This difference does not in itself make one film superior to the other.
The five films under discussion in this chapter can be divided into three groups. Nashville and Shampoo are about failures of vision and community: the inability to translate ''youth culture'' and related movements into meaningful social change. Between the Lines and The Return of the Secaucus Seven take an opposed position, pointing out a quiet social activism which persists into the seemingly conservative late 1970s. Finally, The Big Chill posits an almost seamless transition from 1960s radical to 1980s yuppie; social activism was just youthful good spirits which naturally gave way to more grown-up hedonism and careerism.
Nashville is Robert Altman's first great ensemble piece, the precursor to 1993's The Player and 1994's Short Cuts. An ambitious fresco of life in the country music city, it features twenty-four characters and about thirty songs. As a ''taking stock'' of America in 1975, the film encompasses many social and cultural issues of the sixties, including sexuality, racism, the Vietnam War, the influence of the media, the decline of electoral politics, and the need for a new, participatory culture.
Nashville presents failures of the imagination in music, in politics, and in personal life. A third-party campaign for President, slickly organized by John Triplette (Michael Murphy), intersects with the lives of several prominent Nashville musicians. Candidate Hal Phillip Walker, represented by Triplette and an omnipresent sound truck, seems to stand for many changes but no specific philosophy or program. Meanwhile, the musical numbers range from patriotic (''We must be doing something right to last two hundred years'') to personal (''I'm Easy'') to self-consciously inept (''Let Me Be the One'').2 The film gains a good deal of energy from its large and diverse set of characters (hippies, would-be singers, business managers, a soldier on leave, and so on), but almost all of them are motivated by a narrow self-interest. Even the seemingly saintly Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin), who sings gospel music, is easily seduced by Tom (Keith Carradine), a folk music Don Juan. The film concludes with a benefit concert for the third-party candidate where Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley), the biggest star in Nashville, is assassinated. To quiet the crowd after the assassination, a country music wannabe (Albuquerque, played by Barbara Harris) jumps onstage and leads a collective singing of ''It Don't Worry Me.'' Popular culture, like politics, is out of control, and the USA lurches into its third century.
Part of Nashville's uniqueness is that it is a brilliant group project about the impossibility of cohesive and effective groups in the America of 1975. The project starts with director-producer Altman and screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, but many of the songs and speeches were written by the actors. Ronee Blakley, Henry Gibson, Keith Carradine, and Karen Black all wrote their own songs. Blakley added a key monologue (in the scene where her character, Barbara Jean, breaks down on stage), and Geraldine Chaplin wrote or improvised the often inane comments of her character, ''Opal from the BBC.'' Most striking of all, the Hal Phillip Walker campaign was designed by a political consultant, with little or no input from director or scriptwriter. Altman functioned something like the leader of a jazz band, choosing the theme and the tempo but leaving his collaborators room to stretch. But if the film's making presents a model of individual and group working together, the film's diegesis suggests a huge chasm between citizen and social life.
The first Hal Phillip Walker speech via the sound truck makes two points: (1) ''We are all involved in politics, whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not.'' (2) ''We can do something about it.'' These points could be agreed on by the New Left, the Far Right, and all political activists in between. However, in the film we see no interest in political ideas or positions; even Triplette is purely a deal maker. Other areas of social life have broken down as well: the family, the romantic couple, the news media (as objective observer), and basic relations of civility and trust. L.A. Joan (Shelley Duvall) is too busy chasing men to see her aunt in the hospital. Sueleen Gay's (Gwen Welles) humiliating striptease is part of everyday American culture (woman as object), and so is the promise of celebrity that motivates Sueleen. Linnea sleeps with Tom, while Del Reese (her husband, played by Ned Beatty) tells the hapless Sueleen he wants to ''kiss her all over.'' So much for the couple. Spontaneous, energetic Opal, the news reporter, distorts everything she sees and hears. She is unconsciously racist and very consciously a celebrity hound and groupie. Opal is one of several characters in the film who cherish celebrity more than other human values.
In this debris of a society, this void created by twenty-four characters, the assassination of Barbara Jean does not come as a major surprise. For one thing, if Altman is summing up the America of recent times, then assassination is certainly part of the equation. And in the absence of values, anything is permitted. As Helene Keyssar notes, Altman and company have some
Nashville paramount pictures.
Opal from the BBC (Geraldine Chaplin) meets country singer Tommy Brown (Timothy Brown). Courtesy of Jerry Ohlinger Archives.
mordant fun with the assassination by rousing our suspicions of a young soldier obsessed with Barbara Jean.3 Then the quiet and troubled Kenny, a nondescript young man seen throughout the film, turns out to be the assassin. As Keyssar further notes, Barbara Jean's murder is not explained.4 Assassination is in the air, part of the culture.
The assassination scene and its aftermath can suggest some of the complexity of Nashville. Almost all of the characters gather for a free concert at the Tennessee capital's Parthenon (homage to Athens or mockery of Athens?), the centerpiece of a Nashville park. Kenny pulls a gun from a violin case, and thus becomes a kind of star—"stardom" being a major theme of the film. Singer Haven Hamilton (Gibson) shows some strength in talking to the crowd, then gives the mike to the unknown Albuquerque (Barbara Harris). Albuquerque, who has been waiting throughout the movie for a chance to perform, turns out to be an original, bluesy singer. So many characters sing in Nashville that one is tempted to speak of a democratic, participatory culture, with music creating a shared bond.5 But the song Albuquerque sings is ''It Don't Worry Me,'' which Robert Kolker aptly describes as ''the great anthem of passivity.''6 We are back to the star system and consumerism. The assassination scene, like Nashville as a whole, is a creative, energetic view of a society gone awry.
It is worth underlining that the young people in Nashville are every bit as selfish and short-sighted as their elders. The youth culture characters (L.A. Joan, Opal, Tom, the motorcyclist played by Jeff Goldblum) offer no special insight, so the spectator cannot take comfort in a countercultural perspective different from that of the majority culture. If ''you're either part of the problem or part of the solution,'' according to the sixties maxim, then these characters are part of the problem. Those few characters who show a glimmer of self-knowledge and courage (Haven Hamilton, the black dishwasher, perhaps Albuquerque) are middle aged and middle American. Alt-man and Tewkesbury are clearly not impressed by stylish hippie chic.
Shampoo, released in 1975, takes place on election day 1968 and thus offers both an immediate and a distanced view of the sixties. George (Warren Beatty), a Beverly Hills hairdresser, is trying to open his own shop. But George is mainly interested in the ladies; he admits, late in the film, that he chose his career as a way to seduce women. George's alter ego in the film is Lester Karp (Jack Warden), a hugely successful businessman and Republican political kingpin. In the course of the movie George sleeps with Lester's wife Felicia (Lee Grant), his mistress Jackie (Julie Christie), even his teenage daughter Lorna (Carrie Fisher), while trying to be attentive to his own ''steady girlfriend'' Jill (Goldie Hawn). But Lester retains the real power in the film. Lester and his graying Establishment friends dominate business and politics. Lester also controls women, despite being multiply cuckolded. At the end of the film George proposes to Jackie, but she has already committed to going to Acapulco with Lester. Lester plans to divorce his wife and marry Jackie, and this offer of wealth and security leaves George alone and pensive as the film fades out.
Shampoo is a light comedy/bedroom farce which does not have Nashville's density of meaning. But Shampoo does have an acute point of view on the political and social choices of the 1960s. The political angle enters via an election-night party held by Lester. George is there as a supposedly gay
Shampoo Columbia pictures.
Hairdresser George (Warren Beatty) with Jackie (Julie Christie), one of several women in his life. Courtesy of Jerry Ohlinger Archives.
Shampoo Columbia pictures.
Hairdresser George (Warren Beatty) with Jackie (Julie Christie), one of several women in his life. Courtesy of Jerry Ohlinger Archives.
escort for Jackie. Via this device we hear political speeches and reports throughout the evening, including Spiro Agnew talking about the moral tone a President can provide, and Richard Nixon promising to ''bring us together.'' Both statements are thoroughly ironic, since in 1975 we know that Agnew and Nixon have resigned in disgrace. Also, in 1968 it is clear that long-haired George and Republican businessman Lester are not together. The idea of these two becoming partners in a beauty salon, which is discussed through much of the film, is simply ludicrous. Reduced to basic terms, Lester is a ''have,'' George is a ''have-not.''
From the distanced, 1975 perspective, Shampoo's theme is that the countercultural attitudes of the 1960s do not necessarily lead anywhere. George is longhaired, handsome, conventionally unconventional, a doer rather than a thinker. But, in the film's key move, he is very specifically located in society as a Beverly Hills hairdresser; he is not a free-floating hippie a la Woodstock. As a hairdresser, he has access to rich and beautiful women, but he lacks the economic and social power to interact with them as equals. The filmmakers at times show George's sexual adventures (e.g., going to bed with Lorna and then with Felicia) as difficult, exhausting work. More seriously, George realizes that he does not have the resources to ''take care of'' Jill or Jackie.
Though George does go to the bank in search of a business loan (his interview is disastrous), he usually responds to only the most immediate stimuli. We typically see George in frenetic motion: racing around town on his motorcycle, doing ten things at once in the beauty salon, rushing to please the latest woman who wants something from him. In his own words, George is always ''trying to get things moving.'' But this claim of purposeful activity is punctured by Jill, who responds: ''Oh, grow up. You never stop moving, you never get anywhere. Grow up, grow up!'' This verbal description is beautifully translated into visuals when George, Jackie, Jill, and Lester wander into a hippie party after the political party. Lester and Jill happen across George and Jackie sexually intertwined in a room near the tennis courts. Jill runs away to her car, and George chases after her. As Jill pulls away in her car, George next runs to where he left Jackie. Then he runs back to the driveway, to see Jackie pull away. Perpetual motion, no sustained purpose. Perhaps this description could be extended from the character of George to the young hedonists of the sixties.
Shampoo is not, however, a thoroughly negative critique or satire of the sixties. The film has another, more immanent theme as well. George is a nobody going nowhere, but he does manage to have a good time. Though usually inarticulate and even self-deceiving, he finally does reveal himself at the end of the film. Jill presses George about how many women he has had sex with. He hems and haws, then says: ''Let's face it, I fucked them all. . . . Maybe that means I don't love 'em. Maybe it means I don't love you. I don't know. Nobody can say I don't like 'em very much.'' George has systematically been deceiving Jill, and Felicia, and other women in his life. But in a bedroom farce, deceit is common and expected, and thus morally almost neutral. George spends his days with women, he listens to them, he tries to please them in immediate ways. George certainly understands women better than Lester—Lester understands only power. Given the generally sympathetic treatment of George, Shampoo,s overall attitude might be stated as follows: The sixties are gone, and they didn't change much. But oh, we had fun while they lasted.
Both Nashville and Shampoo stress physical and emotional realities and underplay intellectual analysis. Their characters are inarticulate, frustrated, unformed. These films present the failures of the sixties via the chaotic, irrational lives of a group (Nashville) or an individual protagonist (Shampoo). By contrast, Between the Lines (1977) and The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979) are calmer, more rational films about the survival of 1960s ideals in the politically and economically conservative late 1970s.
Between the Lines (1977), Joan Micklin Silver's second feature film, is a comedy about a Boston underground newspaper. Based on a script by Fred Barron, it was independently produced by Raphael Silver (Joan's husband). The story presents the struggle of the Back Bay Mainline newspaper, founded in the countercultural excitement of 1969, to maintain a viable identity some years later. The paper is being bought out by a media entrepreneur, and there is considerable uncertainty about what happens next. Lynn the receptionist quits, Harry the award-winning investigative reporter is fired, and reporters Michael and Laura prepare to leave for New York. However, the film ends with the sense that the ideals of the newspaper live on with the individuals and not necessarily with the institution.
An ensemble piece with twelve important roles, Between the Lines becomes at times a collage of moments about resistance to the end of the sixties and adjustment to the end of the sixties. Michael J. Pollard, an icon of sixties youth culture since Bonnie and Clyde (1967), plays a long-haired newspaper hawker who continues selling papers through the entire film. Lynn (Jill Eikenberry), the good-hearted receptionist who is the "spirit" of the paper, quits rather than work for new management. On the other hand, apprentice writer David (Bruno Kirby), younger than the others, proves himself as an investigative reporter and reaffirms the ideals of the group at the moment when everything is falling apart. Max (Jeff Goldblum), the longtime rock critic of the Mainline, provides a subtle example of resistance and adjustment. Max is frustrated by writing for a small, demographically limited audience. He can captivate teenage girls or cadge a drink from a longhaired young man, but he has no room to grow, to reach a different audience, to get beyond minimal wages. Max complains a lot and holds tightly to what he has. He also tries to live in the moment; a defining image shows him dancing the night away with two young female admirers.
Though this is a group comedy with a majority of masculine roles, Silver's sensitivity to women's issues shows up in two subplots involving couples. Abbie (Lindsay Crouse) and Harry (John Heard) are friends and occasional lovers. Harry is jealous and possessive and wants a more permanent arrangement, but Abbie wants to protect her personal and professional freedom. She is a fine photographer and is beginning to get recognition for her work. At one point she tells Harry that she doesn't want to stay home and bake bread while he writes a novel. Michael (Steven Collins) and Laura (Gwen Welles), on the other hand, are heading toward a very conventional version of the middle-class couple. The egotistical Michael has sold a book about the end of the sixties to a publisher and is moving to New York to do rewrites. He assumes that his live-in lover is coming along, too. In a moment of revolt, Laura sleeps with Harry, and reminisces about the old days of community and social commitment. She later agrees to go to New York with Michael, even though she realizes he is selfish and borderline abusive. Silver and Barron have sympathy for Laura, but the film clearly favors the independent spirit of Abbie. In the final scene, Abbie and the just-fired Harry leave a bar together, happy but with no promise of permanence. The suggestion is that an alternative, independent approach to life, including a new flexibility of gender roles, is something that must be chosen and lived every day. This redefinition of the sixties counterculture can survive the decline or dissolution of the newspaper; it persists ''between the lines.''
The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979),7 written and directed by John Sayles, is another modest film which lucidly presents the survival of 1960s ideals into the inhospitable late 1970s. Several old friends who were antiVietnam War activists during college get together for a summer weekend in a small New Hampshire town. They are the ''Secaucus Seven'' in the sense that they were arrested on a trumped-up charge in Secaucus, New Jersey, while on their way to a demonstration in Washington. In the present, none is wildly successful, but most have retained some tie to their former activism. Katie (Maggie Renzi) and Mike (Bruce McDonald) are high school teachers,
Jeff (Mark Arnott) is a drug counselor in Harlem, Maura (Karen Trott) has just left an inner-city children's theatre, Irene (Jean Passanante) is the aide to a liberal senator, J.T. (Adam Lefevre) is a struggling folk singer. During the weekend, they talk, they play, they start (or resume, or end) sexual relationships. They also interact in a friendly way with working-class young adults in the small town; this film both acknowledges and tries to overcome class differences in the United States. At the end of the film the visitors depart, friendships renewed, to face the uncertainties of daily life.
The characters in The Return of the Secaucus Seven are more practical than utopian, yet they do have a commitment to social change. John Sayles describes his characters as ''downwardly mobile'' (in contrast to the upwardly mobile characters in The Big Chill),8 which allows them to remain true to their beliefs. The two exceptions to downward mobility are Frances (Maggie Cousineau), a medical student disgusted by the values of her fellow students, and Irene, who writes speeches for a senator. There are only a few specifically political conversations in the film. Most prominent is an ongoing discussion of whether Irene and her boyfriend and fellow speechwriter Chip (Gordon Clapp), who is meeting the group for the first time, can have a positive effect on mainstream politics. Otherwise, The Return of the Secau-cus Seven tends to be a film about friendships within a particular group. The subcultural tone is set by Katie, who says she likes having people around who understand her jokes.
John Sayles meticulously planned Secaucus Seven as a low-budget film which could present ideas and characters important to him and at the same time function as an ''audition piece'' for the studios.9 The multicharacter format, which Sayles borrowed from Nashville, was a way to keep the story moving in the absence of violent action or distinctive locations. The characters were people just turning thirty because the director knew non-Union actors in that age group. A few action scenes (a basketball game, nude diving at the local swimming hole) were added to show that Sayles could handle visually dynamic material.10 Sex scenes, though without explicit nudity, undoubtedly added to the marketability of the project. The resulting film is a bit like Nashville and Shampoo in its physicality, but more akin to Between the Lines in its message. Secaucus Seven, like Between the Lines, suggests that the 1960s did not die. Instead they continue, in the everyday actions of everyday people.
Which brings us to The Big Chill, writer-director Lawrence Kasdan's 1983 film about the ''death of the sixties.'' In this case there really is a death: Alex, a genius science student who deserted physics for the anti-War movement, has killed himself in the early 1980s. Alex's friends from his University of Michigan days gather for his funeral. But these are not ordinary people— Sam (Tom Berenger) is the star of a TV series; Michael (Jeff Goldblum) is a writer for Us magazine; Harold (Kevin Kline) is the founder of a successful running shoe business; Sarah, Harold's wife (Glenn Close), is a doctor; Meg (Mary Kay Place) is a corporate lawyer; Karen (Jo-Beth Williams) is the wife of an advertising executive. Only one of the friends, Nick (William Hurt), is an unreconstructed 1960s character, a Vietnam vet now supporting himself as a drug dealer. These characters and more spend a few days at Harold and Sarah's summer house in South Carolina.
In The Big Chill, the 1960s seem to be about friendship, music, and sex. The sexual theme culminates in an evening where Harold sleeps with Meg, with his wife's blessing; Sam sleeps with Karen; and Nick starts a liaison with Alex's (much younger) lover Chloe, even though Nick was injured in the war and warns her, ''I don't do anything.'' In this version, the sixties was a kind of wild carnival, reinvented for one night. Political action is remembered with pride and perhaps a little guilt, but seems completely unconnected with current actions. In this regard, Kasdan's decision not to show a living Alex (in flashback or otherwise) becomes important. Alex is at least potentially the conscience of the group, the one who never compromised. With Alex gone, Yippies (the Youth International Party of 1968) can become yuppies.
According to Joe Klein, an alternate version of the film with concluding flashback scene (Kevin Costner as Alex) was shown at the first screenings. Klein found the final scene ''something of an embarrassment . . . bad wigs, bad makeup, the presence of Alex, who should have remained a specter. The actors—who are marvelous in the rest of the film—seemed strained, clearly acting.''11 Klein concurs with the decision to cut the flashback. As written in the first draft script, however, the flashback sequence is fascinating.12 It begins with a dissolve from one scene of cleaning up in the kitchen (in the present) to another (Thanksgiving dinner, 1969). The great friends of the early eighties are, in 1969, bickering about career plans. Some nice touches of character development are added (e.g., Karen's comment about Sam: ''How do you make a living out of charisma?'' The answer: Sam becomes a
TV star.) Alex says of his decision to give up proton physics: "Every fucking job in the field is in the military-industrial complex.'' The sequence concludes with good friends settling down to dinner and Alex bringing the turkey into the dining room. In other words, politics recedes, and the film ends with Alex and the others in a warm, supportive environment. Rather than confronting the careerist 1980s with the politics of 1969, the flashback scene is consistent with the rest of the film in stressing personal relations.
A few commonalities can be taken from this group of films. First, all of the films agree that the sixties are associated with a freer sexuality. Nashville, Shampoo, Secaucus Seven, and The Big Chill move from bedroom to bedroom, and even the slightly more staid Between the Lines includes two unmarried couples and a scene of two friends spending a night together. The films disagree, however, on the meaning of this freer sexuality. In Nashville and to some extent Shampoo, sexual license leads to distance and deception between people, not to closer, more authentic bonds. In Between the Lines and Secaucus Seven, on the other hand, sexual freedom is compatible with friendship and idealism. The Big Chill seems to fall between these two positions, with Sam and Karen's liaison based on deception seen as alienating, whereas Harold's attempt to impregnate Meg (with Sarah's support and approval) is presented as an affirmation of friendship.13
A second point of commonality is that the sixties experience seems to be about community. Four out of the five films feature multicharacter ensembles; only Shampoo emphasizes an individual hero. And one could say that all of the films debate the meaning and import of social groups. Nashville creates a set of pseudo-groups, based on very narrow common interests: the entertainment stars and wannabes, the unformed and uninformed electorate. Shampoo debunks the cool, hip Los Angeles "in-group" as the defining factor in George's life by insisting on the crucial importance of money and power. In Between the Lines an idealistic community based on the newspaper is slowly dissolving, whereas in The Return of the Secaucus Seven a looser community of like-minded friends seems to be sustaining itself. Finally, The Big Chill suggests that the sixties group was and is about friendship and shared culture, nothing more.
Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner propose that the value of groups in 1970s cinema varies according to whether the film takes a feminine or a masculine point of view. They argue that because of "real socialization patterns," films directed by women tend to present "parallel, contiguously connected relations,'' whereas films directed by men show "more autonomous, less dependent'' characters.14 Ryan and Kellner see this difference in Between the Lines (directed by Joan Micklin Silver) versus The Big Chill (directed by Lawrence Kasdan), but I am not convinced. For one thing, these two films are very similar—both are about groups of sixties friends who are slowly drifting apart. Also, the notion that The Big Chill "establishes a male center around which the other characters revolve''15 is a reductive view of a film which remains committed to an ensemble approach. I would counter that if the group in Between the Lines is nonhierarchical, whereas the group in The Big Chill is beginning to be hierarchical, this is because of political rather than gender-based reasons. The nonhierarchical groups in Between the Lines and The Return of the Secaucus Seven represent a continuing belief in the voluntary association of like-minded activists. On the other hand, the beginnings of a hierarchy favoring Harold in The Big Chill shows the group adjusting (but with countermovements as well) to the politics of wealth and power.
Overall, the five films profiled in this chapter do not agree on the meaning and current status of the sixties. In Nashville the sixties clearly are dead, and by any standard society is dystopic. Shampoo shares Nashville's social pessimism but presents George as a character achieving at least momentary happiness. Between the Lines and Secaucus Seven suggest a link between the political values of the 1960s and character actions in the late 1970s. The Big Chill, on the other hand, contests the relevance of such a link in the early 1980s. These films and others demonstrate that the sixties, like the Vietnam War, is a continuing locus of cultural debate. We continue to negotiate what we mean by "the sixties'' and whether they really are dead.
The authentic environment of an utterance, the environment in which it lives and takes Part shape, is dialogized heteroglossia, anonymous ^^
and social as language, but simultaneously concrete, filled with specific content and accented as an individual utterance.
—Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel''
Let a thousand movies bloom.
—James Monaco, American Film Now
Was this article helpful?