A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
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, Roger Corman and Paul Schrader revolutionized mainstream movies and for the first time personal visions were coming out of the studio system.
A documentary examining the decade of the 1970s as a turning point in American cinema. Some of today's best filmmakers interview the influential directors of that time.
- A compendium of interviews and excerpts from 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 filmmaking 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.
An interview with Francis Coppola is enlightening with his 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.
The documentary is a jumping off point for any film lover who wants to see 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.