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|Index||19 reviews in total|
The 1970s opened the door to the largest, most diverse era of film in
its history. Some films were great ("The Godfather", "The
Conversation", "Mean Streets", Chinatown", "The French Connection",
"Five Easy Pieces", "Jaws", "McCabe And Mrs. Miller") Others were not
so great ("The Getaway", "The Outfit", "Badge 373", "Joe", "The Taking
Of Pelham One Two Three", "Brewster McCloud", "Castle Keep") And others
were barely worth the price of admission.
Yet every one was a fresh breath of air compared to today's Corporate Hollywood. Where every film is given a Big Weekend to recoup its cost. Or go straight to HBO and rental.
What "Decade" does so well is to relate the sudden and rarely experienced sensation of freedom to be given money to make and direct a film. Perhaps personal. Perhaps not. Sometime with a clutch of extras. Sometimes, in the middle of a busy street before the cops show up. Long before the Corporate Overseers, Suits, Committees and Lawyers ever became part of "The System".
The commentaries are superb. Especially Julie Christie and Dennis Hopper. Though as you listen, you'll slowly discover just how many Big Directors today (Coppola, Scorsese, Ron Howard, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdonovitch) got stated as "Roger Corman Commandos". Working long hours with short pay. Shooting a film in under a month. Learning all the steps and tricks of the trade by doing it themselves. Turning in product that was on-time and under-budget.
See "Decade" for its message. And for a long and varied list of films to watch made through those wondrously turbulent years.
Though, I would not complain if IFC decided to devote another documentary solely to that most under-rated Grand Pioneer of film, Roger Corman.
This is a great compendium of interviews and excerpts form the films of
the late sixties and early 70s that were a counter movement to the big
Studio Films of the late sixties. Directed by Ted Demme, it is
obviously a labor of love of the films of the period, but it gives
short shrift to the masterpieces of the times.
Many of the filmmakers of this period were influenced by Truffaut, Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, and of course John Cassavetes. Unfortunately the documentary logging in at 138 minutes is too short! The film is rich with interviews and opinions of filmmakers. Some of the people interviewed are: Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdonovich, Ellen Burstyn, and Roger Corman, Bruce Dern, Sydney Pollack, Dennis Hopper, and Jon Voight.
Bruce Dern has a moment of truth when he says that he and Jack Nicholson may not have been as good looking as the other stars that came before them but they were "interesting". This summarizes the other areas of this period of film-making in American history.
The filmmakers were dealing with a lack of funding from the Studios because they were expressing unconventional attitudes about politics, sex, drugs, gender and race issues, and Americas involvement in overseas conflicts like the Vietnam War.
There is a great interview with Francis Coppola saying that he got the chance to make "The Conversation" because the producers knew he had been trained by Roger Corman to make a movie with nothing so they bankrolled his film.
Another interview is with Jon Voight who was directed by Hal Ashby in "Coming Home" a clear anti-war film about a crippled soldier immersing himself back into society after his facing battle. Voight talks about how his working methods helped him achieve an emotional telling point when Ashby said that they were doing a "rehearsal" take and it ended up being the take used in the film- it was better because it was so un-rehearsed and not drained of its freshness by being over-rehearsed.
There are also many fine excerpts from Al Pacino's break-through film "The Panic in Needle Park", and interviews from Dennis Hopper on the making of "Easy Rider", and interviews from Sydney Pollack about making films.
All in all the documentary is a fine jumping off point for any film lover who wants to see great examples of what the new voices in film were like in the Seventies. Many of the Sundance Folks, where this film made a big splash, are unaware of just how much the Independent Film Maker today owes to the films of John Cassavetes, Milos Foreman, William Friedkin, and Roger Corman.
Rent it from your favorite shop. It will at least perk you up to some films you may not have seen before and can enjoy today. Amazon.com has it for as little as $11.50, if you want to buy right out.
In retrospect, the 1970s was a golden era for the American cinema, as
demonstrated and explored by this documentary directed by Ted Demme and
Richard LaGravenese. This IFC effort serves to illustrate and clarify
the main idea of what that time meant for the careers of these
illustrious people seen in the documentary.
The amazing body of work that remains, is a legacy to all the people involved in the art of making movies in that period. The decade was marked by the end of the Viet Nam war and the turbulent finale of those years of Jimmy Carter's presidency.
One thing comes out clear, films today don't measure against the movies that came out during that creative decade because the industry, as a whole, has changed dramatically. The big studios nowadays want to go to tame pictures that will be instant hits without any consideration to content, or integrity, as long as the bottom line shows millions of dollars in revenues.
The other thing that emerges after hearing some of America's best creative minds speak, is the importance of the independent film spirit because it is about the only thing that afford its creators great moral and artistic rewards.
This documentary is a must see for all movie fans.
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."
A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE (2003) **** (Featuring interviews with: Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Marshall Brickman, Ellen Burstyn, John Calley, Julie Christie, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, Bruce Dern, Milos Forman, William Friedkin, Pam Grier, Dennis Hopper, Sidney Lumet, Paul Mazursky, Mike Medavoy, Polly Platt, Sydney Pollack, Jerry Schatzberg, Roy Scheider, Martin Scorsese, Robert Towne, Jon Voight) Excellent documentary about the last true Golden Age of Cinema: The '70s with interviews of those who made seminal films intercut with footage of the movies providing an interesting time-line of how the influences of previous filmmakers changed the face of filmmaking, the advent of the auteur, the dawning of the age of the blockbuster and the amazing array of unbridled, raw talent of actors providing a bumper crop of truly classic films. A must for all film buffs and those who are on the way to becoming a new age of cinema. Directed by Richard La Gravenese and Ted Demme (who passed away prior to its completion; this his fitting swan song to the art form).
What a wonderful documentary - I sat down thinking this would be a rehash of the bitchy stories told in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, but it is, in fact, a clear-eyed, glorious celebration of a strange and twisted era that spawned some truly great movies. What struck me was the lack of bitterness apparent in the director interviews, given that now the movie business sucks in a large fashion - instead, folk like Friedkin and Coppola's eyes seem to positively glitter recalling their glory days. The footage of an audience coming out of a daytime screening of the Exorcist was priceless. 'It was - traumatic,' one guy says. A great epitaph for the late Ted Demme, a thrilling film, I just wish it was longer - I could have sat through a three hour cut of this.
A surprisingly good documentary. My surprise was mainly due to the fact that I was confused by the title. I assumed this was about the influence of the drug culture on film making but no it is a much more far reaching and intelligent film than could have been expected. Demme has done a great job in encapsulating the period from the late 60s to the late 70s. From, 'Easy Rider' and the collapse of studio influence, through all those introspective 'real life' movies, where brilliant young directors tried to express themselves politically, sexually and artistically, through to the beginnings of the blockbuster and the return of the reigns to the money men and their studios. As someone who saw the 'real life' movies of Britain and the rest of Europe through the sixties and then the revolutionary US films of the 70s and is sad that the sequel to the sequel is so much the order of the day, this was a most fascinating film. The interview clips are measured (thanks to DVD the full interviews are available as extras!) and the film clips well considered. Also, as someone who has only just caught up with, 'Joe', I am impressed that this important little film gets its well deserved entry here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A documentary dealing with American films made in the
nineteen-seventies, with major emphasis on experimentation with new
styles of cinematic expression and departure from the traditional style
of film production.
It's tough to generalise, but I think the seventies is my favourite decade of film. This is a quality documentary about that period, which correctly identifies my reasons for feeling that way - the waning big studios giving rise to the auteur, non-prohibitive costs and the first "movie-brat" generation of film school graduates. However, it then turns into an all too predictable film critics' textbook examining how cinema reflected the social upheaval of the period and champions the usual directors - Altman, Hal Ashby, Bogdanovich, Coppola, Pollack, Scorsese and so on - and their de-Hollywoodised, European-influenced approach. It even goes so far as to hint that the huge successes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (who had the temerity to make imaginative, exciting, crowd-pleasing genre pictures) killed artistic creativity and put the studios back on top, a suggestion which pisses me off to no end. Everybody has different tastes - I love Coppola and I can't stand Altman - but I find it ironic that although the films discussed and the interviewees are almost always championing anti-establishment stances, by doing so the documentary is virtually a propaganda film for cinema's Critical Establishment. Some of the comments are spot-on (Dern's analysis of the difference between his acting generation and the preceding one, Schrader's synopsis of the big studios' transition from factories to banks), some are wildly inaccurate (MASH was not the first film to treat war as comedy by a long chalk), but all are interesting and almost all the talking heads are witty and erudite, particularly Corman, Friedkin, Grier, Lumet, Mazursky and Platt. At the end of the movie there is a politely amusing slide which reads, "I can't believe they didn't mention (insert filmmaker here).". I could insert specific filmmakers (Ralph Bakshi, Mel Brooks, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Michael Crichton, David Cronenberg, Walter Hill, Peter Hyams, John Landis, many others), but what I'd rather insert is, "Anybody who was either vaguely disreputable, made scuzzy genre movies, didn't have artistic pretensions or didn't receive critical approval.". If you evaluate the movies of the seventies which still show up constantly in revival houses and on TV, they are all genre movies; horror, science-fiction, crime, action and comedies. This documentary completely ignores them and says that the films we should be remembering are things like McCabe & Mrs Miller and Shampoo. I'm sorry, but no way. A pivotal seventies movie like George A. Romero's Dawn Of The Dead has just as much social relevance as any of the movies discussed in this documentary but, unlike them, is bloody good fun too and what's more, people still want to see it today. All this narking aside though, this is a very well-made and intelligent film, featuring many interesting filmmakers, and not to be missed by moviehounds - just remember that it only reflects a very small, critically-approved niche of seventies cinema. Sadly, co-director/co-producer Demme, who made some nice offbeat flicks (The Ref, Snitch, Blow) died of a heart-attack not long after production wrapped.
...and my reasons for which are simple- there are so many great films
presented and discussed here (most of them by their own directors and
stars), so many clips of infamous moments in 70's movie history, and in
fact a number of films I have yet to see, that it wouldn't be fair to
grade this work. By this logic I shouldn't have given grades to other
movie documentaries like Martin Scorsese's Personal Journey through
American Movies and My Voyage to Italy. But while those films were on
the basis of one man's view of cinema, narrating through most of the
way, Richard LaGravanese and (the late) Ted Demmes' A Decade Under the
Influence lets the films and the creators speak entirely for
What makes 'Decade' worth at least one watch for film buffs, or just anyone who likes the films of the late 60's-70's in America, are the levels that it goes to, that in the uncut version (three hours, not the theatrical version, which I have no comment on) plenty of ground is covered. Interviews include the likes of Scorsese, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet, Julie Christie, Jon Voight, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Schrader, Pam Grier, Bruce Dern, Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Dennis Hopper, Robert Towne, etc, and there's a constant flow of insight from start to finish. The way the clips and directors/actors pop up, edited together in a flashy and quick style, is also fascinating.
The one down comment I have on the documentary is that most of the information presented has been reported on in various books, like Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, and though I haven't seen the movie version of that book yet I'm sure it would have covered many of the films and directors and incidents as here (in fact, the book of that is one of the best I've ever read. HOWEVER, this documentary serves as something special for film buffs and occasional movie goers of the future- they can look at this and learn not only about such well known pictures as Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show, Annie Hall, Coming Home, and lessor knowns like Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park, The Landlord, Joe, They Shoot Horses Don't They. They can also learn about who influenced them (new waves of Europe and Asia), who they served as influences for, and how the subject matter that created controversy after controversy still serves as intriguing and chancy material for the contemporary crowd. Seek this out!
I swore I would never allow myself to devolve into to the bogus
authority figures of the sixties who told me things were better in the
"good old days" the current Australian Prime Minister is a sordid
example of just such a mind set.
But I switched over to "A Decade Under the Influence" because I found watching the much-heralded "Sneakers" documentary on the other channel such a dispiriting experience. I found the values expressed by the "Sneakers" interviewees too ugly to accept as reasonable. So materialistic! So devoid of any sense of outrage at a society that can countenance killing someone to steal his very ugly shoes! So lacking in any worthwhile purpose that they can report without distaste the exploitation an audience by haranguing them to hold those shoes above their heads to lock in a sponsorship deal for themselves with a company of cobblers was just too much to continue watching.
"A Decade Under the Influence" depicted a completely different response to the fruit of stupidity, corruption and concupiscence in high (and low) places.
I have noted the change in film-making that accompanied the exposure of America's disastrous foreign policy debacles in Vietnam and so many less reported places in my www.peterhenderson.com.au website. "A Decade Under the Influence" documents the precise moment at which that change took place.
Before the seventies, the armed forces were depicted in American films as an invincible fighting force comprised of decent human beings who transmogrified into conquering heroes on the battlefield. After the seventies they are generally portrayed as a dispirited rabble misled by a bunch of bureaucrat clowns in the Pentagon Before the seventies, the FBI agent and the honest cop tended to be depicted as your friend and protector. After the seventies, the FBI agents were all incompetent and the best a cop could aspire to was to ignore their foolishness and his superior's corruption and uphold justice in his own idiosyncratic manner.
Before the seventies, the archetypical American "little guy", the "average Joe", the Jimmy Stewart type would face down the problems encountered and thereby gain some insight into underlying wisdom of his elected leaders and justice of the "American Way". After the seventies, Kevin Costner usurps that role, but now he is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness for evil to be exposed, or accepting his lot and making out the best he can.
And now those "old time religion" mindsets have been stripped of any honesty and righteousness and portrayed (with a certain amount of justification) as sanctimonious bigotry and self-serving hypocrisy.
"A Decade Under the Influence" tells it like it was. "A Decade Under the Influence" tells it like it is now. It depicts the redemption of the American film industry from the hands of the artistically, morally and intellectually bankrupt studio moguls. It shows the storming of the Hollywood Bastille by the independent film makers who promised to get a disillusioned and tired audience back into the cinemas. The fact that their failures were numerous, and at times disastrous, merely underlines the greatness of their achievement. An achievement reflected in the adventurous and questioning attitudes of the big box office stars such as Clooney, Daman, Affleck etc and the directors and producers who provide the vehicles for their talent.
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