The year 1968 was earth-shattering in its effects on worldwide culture, as well as art and the cinematic medium, said renowned film critic J. Hoberman, known as J. Hoberman, at a lecture Thursday evening at IU Cinema.
“It’s impossible to avoid clichés when talking about the '60s,” Hoberman said. “Those who remember the '60s never lived them.”
He recalled some of his own experiences going through adolescence during the chaos of the '60s.
“I was old enough to have experienced 1968, too young to understand it,” Hoberman said. “I’m not sure that I do even now, though I suspect that I have spent much of my life trying to figure out what it was that happened then.”
The flaming social chaos and utopian fantasy of the '60s manifested themselves throughout many facets of the era, Hoberman said, one of which was cinema.
“In the case of cinema, it was the elevation of this medium to a privileged metaphor," he said. "Not just for consciousness, but even objective reality. As in, life is a movie and we are superstars."
The lecture was part of IU Cinema’s ongoing Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Series, as well as the first official event of the Wounded Galaxies festival, according to IU Media School professor Joan Hawkins.
“I’ve been a fan for a long time,” Hawkins said.
She also recalled admiring Hoberman’s positioning of the films he wrote about within their cultural context.
Much of Hoberman’s lecture focused on the cinematic legacy of the '60s. Hoberman was also the curator for IU Cinema’s Wounded Galaxies film series, which began Thursday evening with a screening of George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.”
Hoberman described the movie's vision of the future as profoundly grim, but acknowledged its legacy as one of many artistically adventurous cinematic endeavors of its time.
“’Night of the Living Dead’ depicts social breakdown and personal regression in the most lurid ways,” Hoberman said. “It depicts scores of corpses rising from the ground to prey on the living. The movie pits black against white, child against parent, hawk against dove.”
Hoberman also discussed a number of other significant films of the era, including Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” social satires like “Wild in the Streets" and Jules’ Dassin’s blaxploitation thriller “Uptight.”
Hoberman accompanied his discussion of one of the aforementioned films, “Wild in the Streets,” with a screening of a selected segment from the film. The sequence featured young people petitioning the United States government to adjust the legal ages at which citizens could run for and occupy public office.
“Youth is America’s secret weapon,” proclaimed a character in the clip.
Hoberman discussed the effect of the film, noting that upon its release it was wildly controversial.
“It’s euphoric in its assumption that old people are helpless in the face of this youthful onslaught,” Hoberman said.
He also called the film a horror movie and a healthy vulgarity.
Hoberman recognized clear parallels between the political and social climates of the '60s and present-day America.
“It’s suggestive and also chastening to me that the three primary candidates in the last election were all 1968 survivors,” he said.
He also noted the symmetry of movements and activist groups like the Black Panthers to modern day equivalents like Black Lives Matter, and political figures like Lyndon Johnson to President Trump.
“1968 is still with us,” Hoberman concluded.