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Point Blank and the 'Lost' 1967


A few years ago there was a topic on this board--the author of which eludes me; please chime in if you're reading this--who wrote an eloquent and insightful piece on Point Blank and how it is an aspect of the 1960s that isn't found in the cultural histories of the period but was quite evident to those who were there. I thought enough of this topic to save it in case the IMDB deleted the topic. I am re-posting the discussion so that other admirers of Point Blank can discuss this most thoughtful topic. I took the liberty of titling it Point Blank and the "Lost" 1967:


"POINT BLANK is one of the best cinematic representations of that stark, sunbleached, urban mood which dominated the mid-to-late-1960s but rarely gets referred to--- people talk about "protest" and "tumult" but almost never about this (just as people rarely refer to the autumnal-wintry melancholy of the 1970s when that was the mood that virtually defined that era, which THE ICE STORM, flawed as it was, later attempted to capture).

But regarding POINT BLANK:

The atonal score; the "echo-y" resonance of the thing; the claw-your-neck, angsty atmoshpere; the diffused lighting; that window-screen camera trick; the jazz bar; the aloof neon lights at night; even that car lot.... it's all just sooooo very, very 1966 and beyond...

It's just like the name of the film: in-your-face ("POINT") yet oddly hollow ("BLANK").

Anyway, for any younger person looking to see what the cities tended to feel like at that time, POINT BLANK is one of the better movie examples of the period you can point to.

...Also, the DVD has two brief extras (both entitled "The Rock") which focus on Alcatraz Pison and also convey the same lost, disillusioned flavor of time which was so captivating yet confounding.

Walter Cronkite once observed that the '60s was "a slum of a decade". And one has to understand what that means. Yes, the sunstreaked-field/Woodstock image existed, but to miss the juxtaposition of that with the grimy, dank, hollow quality of the '60s is to miss the decade entirely.

The truth is always more complicated -- and infinitely more interesting -- than the pre-chewed view of history, even recent cultural history, that we tend to get.

When one mixes POINT BLANK with those urban montage scenes in MIDNIGHT COWBOY and, say, Antonio's BLOW UP, with a dash of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, you're getting a more accurate sense of the mood of the late-'60s (albeit cinematically) and how they actually kinda felt and why they haunted that generation so much and so long then you will from the media's simplistic spin on the era today.

Or from those dreadful, revisionistic '80s films which tried to exploit it and reshape it to fit a Reagan era sensibility which bore no resemblance to it.

There is always tumult and cultural change, and there's always tragedy. But what made the 1960s seem so dramatic, so resonant, was how it felt. Which is always a tough thing to describe or to capture.

The 11 years between JFK's instantly-legendary, bottomlessly macabre assassination (such that we refuse to deal with it even today other than thru platitudes) in 1963, and Nixon's resignation in 1974 under the Watergate scandal -- and all the lies told in between about that eternal, turgid mire that was Vietnam -- created and reflected a startling shift in the culture which was unusual in its speed and severity and starkness. And, yes, that story is so much more compelling than flower-power images of bellbottomed jeans and Volkswagons and posters of Che Guevara.

If only we had a better way to capture the zeitgeist of a period, or a decade, so that it could be sniffed like a cologne and the air of the time breathed in. So people could appreciate what it actually felt like to be alive in that particular period.

All the modern hippie references just make it seem boring. And silly.

How could a decade which went from the doomed, sacred, frozen-in-time eeriness of The Twilight Zone and Mayberry and The Bates Motel of the early-'60s and then jarringly metamorphosed into the post-apocalyptic tension of POINT BLANK and and the psychedelic intravenous journeys of FANTASTIC VOYAGE and THE YELLOW SUBMARINE and the forlorn, arid wastelands of PLANET OF THE APES and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY from the late-'60s, and then subsided into the deeply melancholy, bittersweet disillusion caught vividly by that ice-skating/snow-angels scene in LOVE STORY (just that one scene, as the whole movie is pretty rank) of the early-'70s possibly be boring??

I use those free-association/stream-of-consciousness movie references because they're so much more memorable (and oddly precise) than "Entertainment Tonight" or recent years' pop culture efforts at '60s nostalgia can seem to communicate.

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It's worth pointing out that among the various causes for the above-mentioned "stark, sunbleached[ ] urban mood which dominated the mid[ ]to[ ]late[ ]1960s" in the United States, there were at least three quite clear-cut major ones, namely the widespread tearing down of buildings in the centers of cities in order to build parking lots, the moving of large numbers of businesses and residents from the centers of cities to the suburbs, and the use of vast unadorned expanses of concrete in new urban architecture and landscaping. The first two phenomena were in turn the fruit of market-distorting transportation policies and associated land-use policies that had been put in place by the federal, state, and local governments starting in the early twentieth century as part of a huge "progressive" social-engineering effort to artificially overstimulate road transportation, punish and diminish the railroad industry, and try to build a new form of suburb-oriented rather than city-oriented society. The resulting urban semi-desolation was a signature excess of the sixties that persisted into the seventies and only began to be significantly reversed in the eighties. I vividly remember that stark, sunbleached urban mood from my childhood experiences of Boston and a few other cities. On the whole it was a bad and destructive period for the urban environment, although I have to admit that at the same time it did have a certain attractiveness for people who, like me, are perpetual connoisseurs of strange new varieties of melancholy.

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Thanks for the insightful post. It is appreciated.

It's worth pointing out that among the various causes for the above-mentioned "stark, sunbleached[ ] urban mood which dominated the mid[ ]to[ ]late[ ]1960s" in the United States, there were at least three quite clear-cut major ones, namely the widespread tearing down of buildings in the centers of cities in order to build parking lots, the moving of large numbers of businesses and residents from the centers of cities to the suburbs, and the use of vast unadorned expanses of concrete in new urban architecture and landscaping. The first two phenomena were in turn the fruit of market-distorting transportation policies and associated land-use policies that had been put in place by the federal, state, and local governments starting in the early twentieth century as part of a huge "progressive" social-engineering effort to artificially overstimulate road transportation, punish and diminish the railroad industry, and try to build a new form of suburb-oriented rather than city-oriented society. The resulting urban semi-desolation was a signature excess of the sixties that persisted into the seventies and only began to be significantly reversed in the eighties. I vividly remember that stark, sunbleached urban mood from my childhood experiences of Boston and a few other cities. On the whole it was a bad and destructive period for the urban environment, although I have to admit that at the same time it did have a certain attractiveness for people who, like me, are perpetual connoisseurs of strange new varieties of melancholy.

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Thank you for your insightful post!

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