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The 1970s was an extraordinary time of rebellion, of questioning every accepted idea: political activism, hedonism, protests, the sexual revolution, the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the music revolution, rage and liberation. Every standard by which we set our social and cultural clocks was either turned inside out or thrown away completely and reinvented. For American cinema, the 1970s was an era during which a new generation of filmmakers created work for a new kind of audience--moviegoers who were hungry for stories that reflected their own experiences and who were turning their backs on aged old studio formulas. As a result, emerging filmmakers influenced by foreign directors such as Godard, Kurosawa and Fellini coupled with the social climate and a struggling studio system, converged to create a new kind of moviemaking. Through their choice of material, filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This exploration of a unique decade in US cinema begins with the fall of one ailing, out-of-touch empire and culminates with the unstoppable rise of another, equally associated with escapism and box office receipts. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Or, as Peter Fonda observed in Easy Rider, "We blew it." In between, from Bonnie And Clyde to Star Wars, the young Turks (some under the guerrilla tutelage of Roger Corman) were creeping under the wires to produce some of the greatest artworks of the 20th century. While the story is already familiar from Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls directors Demme and LaGravenese are less concerned with muckraking than in providing a platform for the filmmakers and stars themselves.
Everyone from Martin Scorsese to Francis Ford Coppola and Julie Christie is interviewed and a roster of well edited clips places the decade in a socio-cultural and economic context. If their responses are self-congratulatory (to say the least), they're also highly quotable, funny and revealing, making this something of a cinephile's wet dream. Director William Friedkin reveals how the original The Exorcist poster was to feature a little girl's hand holding a bloodied crucifix and the legend 'For God's sake, help her", before he complained. Former Warner Bros.' head John Calley recalls that when he first saw Robert De Niro in Mean Streets he assumed Scorsese had secured a psychopath's day release for the shoot.
Happily, a certain amount of hard perspective has crept into the mix, as might be hoped from a politically motivated, consciousness-expanded generation; Hopper stresses "there's a lot of real crap in there too". Julie Christie observes that 1970s US cinema was "not a good time for women". But if Demme responds with a spoonful of sops to women's movies
brief clips of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, They Shoot Horses,
Don't They and Klute - we're soon dragged back to the usual male wall-pissing contests.
The shift from tough, socially-conscious film-making to no-risk crowd-pleasers like Jaws for 'Nam-weary, fantasy-craving audiences is also documented, though a little rushed. But kudos too, for the inclusion of lesser-sung, but equally relevant films like Panic In Needle Park and Joe. "We weren't handsome," muses Bruce Dern on his contemporaries. "But we were f****** interesting."
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