Paramount in the 1970s

Aug 21–Sep 15, 2024


Daisy Miller. 1974. USA. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

The world was undergoing seismic changes in the 1960s, as was international cinema, as various “new waves” challenged outmoded filmic languages and oppressive moral orders, and “auteur theory” claimed cinema as a way for individual directors to express how they saw—and felt—an unstable world. Hollywood, however, kept betting on expensive musicals and grand visual spectacle detached from younger generations’ cultural, social, and political moods.

Paramount Pictures’ 1967 hiring of Robert Evans, a 36-year-old former actor, as its head of production signaled that the Hollywood studios were finally filling their ranks with new blood. The massive success of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather helped Evans turn Paramount’s failing fortunes around, positioning the studio as a gateway for some of the most mature, risk-taking films of the 1970s—and opening up US mainstream cinema to depictions of collective fears fed by ethical crises and political disasters at home and abroad. For a few years, studios shifted from escapism toward painful reflections of how things could—and would—go wrong, filling screens with antiheroes, failed relationships, and a social contract threatened by well-earned mistrust in traditional institutions.

Before it ceded ground amid the late-1970s rise of the blockbuster, this “New Hollywood” offered mainstream audiences adventurous, often controversial visions tinged with violence, paranoia, and self-reflection—and Paramount Pictures was at the vanguard of this brief but pivotal moment. Paramount in the 1970s brings together a selection of 25 classic and lesser-known titles that were produced or distributed by the studio during this era, from Coppola’s first two Godfather films to government-conspiracy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View to rarely screened gems like Richard Fleischer’s controversial Mandingo, Gordon Parks’s music biopic Leadbelly, and the documentary The Secret Life of Plants. Several films in the series are being presented in new restorations.

Organized by Francisco Valente, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.


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