Touki Bouki inspiration for Jay Z and Beyonc. Photograph: Photo12
Even the studios embraced the spirit of experimentation, bankrolling daredevil projects such as
Chinatown, Taxi Driver and The Godfather; Terrence Malick, an arthouse genius on the corporate dime, pocketed a $1m, no-strings stipend from Paramount. US cinemas enduring maverick, Robert Altman, dissected the damaged American psyche in the monumental Nashville. Black lives mattered, long before #BlackLivesMatter, in Killer of Sheep and Sweet Sweetbacks Baadasssss Song. Elaine Mays acidic comedies (A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid) peeled the comforts from the romcom genre like a sadistic child plucking the wings off flies. There was affection as well as iconoclasm, as proved by Peter Bogdanovichs sparkling homages to old Hollywood, such as The Last Picture Show and Whats Up, Doc?
Any overview of the decade tends to be monopolised by the US new wave, not least because its directors (Lucas, Scorsese, Spielberg) would dominate cinema for the rest of the century, but there was dynamism everywhere.
Ousmane Sembne made his masterpiece, the mischievous Xala, and his fellow Senegalese visionary Djibril Diop Mambty conjured the ravishing Touki Bouki, destined to be known now as the film that inspired Jay Z and Beyoncs 2018 tour poster. There was a new wave in Australia, fronted by Peter Weir ( Picnic at Hanging Rock) and Fred Schepisi ( The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith), as well as in Germany, where Fassbinder and Herzog were in their prolific pomp, producing cinematic provocations faster than audiences could devour them. Buuel bowed out with a hat-trick of barbed, subversive comedies, beginning with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage showed that Bergmans rage had survived into middle age.
The French new wavers descended into scrapping Godard attacked Truffauts wonderful 1973 film about film-making,
Day For Night, and got called a piece of shit on a pedestal in return but its pioneers still thrived: this was the decade, after all, of Jacques Rivettes 12-hour-plus Out 1 and the berserk Cline and Julie Go Boating.
Divisions between arthouse and mainstream were overturned in the 1970s, with A-list stars drawn to the arthouse Jack Nicholson in Antonionis
The Passenger, Jane Fonda in Godards Tout Va Bien, Ryan ONeal in Kubricks Barry Lyndon. If none of that settles the case for the 1970s as the most thrilling decade of cinema yet, mull over these titles: Annie Hall, Deep End, The Devils, Dog Day Afternoon, In the Realm of the Senses, Straight Time, The Spirit of the Beehive and the scandalous Thundercrack! Or these emerging directors: Chantal Akerman, Bertrand Blier, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Terence Davies, Bill Douglas, Derek Jarman, Diane Kurys, George Miller, Ridley Scott.
By the end of the decade, Thatcher was in power, Reagan was lurking in the wings, and
Heavens Gate was about to help kill off Hollywoods appetite for rolling the dice. It would be irresponsibly misty-eyed to claim things would never be that adventurous again. Lets just say that nothing so radical or explosive can last for ever.