The sense of schizophrenia has never been so obvious within the world of American cinema than in the transitional period between the Classic Hollywood Cinema and the emerging New Hollywood. After thirty-five years Hollywood had finally abandoned its censorship code and powerful studios were slowly falling into oblivion and into distribution and free-agency. Cultural shifts segregated American audiences, as legendary directors began to falter, classic stars began to fade and Hollywood producers began to panic. It was an extremely bleak period of great political violence and of drastic culture changes, along with the public’s heightened feelings of doubt and paranoia of their very own governments. Such events in our society were rapidly changing young people’s perceptions on our country and our culture. The civil rights movement, the race riots, black power, protests against the losing war in Vietnam, counter-culture, flower power, the rise of feminism, the demand for gay rights, the two Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X’s assassination, the shooting of students at Kent State, The Watergate scandal and the Charles Manson murders. These unforgettable periods in American history were an ongoing transition within themselves and so the transition within the cinema was ultimately expected and inevitable. Shortly after the death of the production code, various independent studios began to emerge with new, young and innovative directors like John Cassavetes, Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Frances Ford Coppola, Hal Ashby, and Martin Scorsese. At this time movie theater attendance was at a all-time low, because young audiences wanted stories that were more critical, gritty and raw, reflecting their own growing pessimism and presenting a more accurate reflection of a much bleaker time. Fortunately these new generation of filmmakers were predominantly film school-educated, counterculture-bred, and, most importantly, young, therefore able to connect with the youth audience that the studios were losing. With films such as The Graduate, Easy Rider, Rosemary’s Baby, Bonnie and Clyde, Midnight Cowboy, The Wild Bunch, Harold and Maude, Night of the Living Dead, Mean Streets, A Clockwork Orange, Five Easy Pieces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Producers, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, MASH, The Conversation, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Faces, Deliverance, The Last Picture Show, Nashville, The Godfather Parts 1 & 2, Chinatown, Dog Day Afternoon, The French Connection, Network and Taxi Driver, the cinema between the late 60’s and mid 70’s began to reflect some of the most iconoclastic works ever produced by a commercial industry. Also called ‘The American New Wave,’ the films of New Hollywood were fresh and innovative, while giving the cinema a new level of authentic intensity and contemporary relevance. It brought upon more realistic and morally ambiguous stories, graphic violence, explicit sex, language and drug use, unresolved endings, and the creation of the detached narcissistic anti-hero. These alienated anti-heroes were a direct response to the anti-establishment of authority figures, and also the rebellious youth throughout the late 1960’s. The New Hollywood movement is one of the most significant transitions in American film history, giving us some of the greatest and most original American films since the late 1940’s.
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