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By Ray Young
Francis Coppola filming Apocalypse Now
A Decade Under the Influence
A film by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme For more information contact Docurama
____________________ A dizzying glance at an intriguing epoch, A Decade Under the Influence (2003) possesses a sycophantic spirit. Armed with dozens of interviews and film clips, directors Richard LaGravenese and the late Ted Demme adore their subject — “the 70’s films that changed everything,” according to the picture’s tag line — and run the risk of sacrificing their objectivity. But to be perfectly honest, who cares? Originally a three-part mini-series broadcast on the Independent Film Channel, running a total of 180 minutes, we’d be entranced even if it were triple that length. It opens with the chestnut about the demise of the studio system, a mid-century passing of the baton when the moguls (Darryl Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, etc.) retired and sold their interests to lawyers and accountants. Television and a collective urge away from outmoded values ultimately killed the dynasty of old Hollywood, and it went down in gaudy, graceless denial. LaGravenese and Demme disinter footage taken at the ‘star studded’ premiere of Hello, Dolly! (1969), where celebrities well into their golden years whoop it up for an astonishingly archaic, white elephant of a picture. “The film business was a decadent, decaying, empty whorehouse, and it had to be assaulted,” reflects Paul Schrader, one of the documentary’s jubilant interviewees. Like many of his contemporaries who either worked in television during the 50’s, or spent perhaps too much of their adolescence going to the movies, Schrader embraced the impending upheaval. “You had that student-film mentality: let’s pick up the banner of Godard and walk in there and take over!” They had a ready-made audience, supportive of foreign films and apprehensive of the conventional (re: ‘establishment’) thinking that threatened to hitch the 60’s to the
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” explains Julie Christie. “There was Renoir. and say ‘I’ve got to remember never to do anything like that again!’” Young. But for approximately seven years. “the artist ruled. no distributor would’ve touched The Last Picture Show (1971) for its nudity. Money. and inexpensive to hire. Bogdanovich replies. and Francis Coppola? Or merely our take on a distressing situation that’s yet to reverse itself? For almost overnight.” This is not to say that mindless. M*A*S*H* (1970) and The Exorcist (1973) would probably never have been made. reverent of those who came before them. Approaching the terrain skewed earlier by Peter Biskind in his book. mature themes and characters were tossed out like so 2 de 3 30/06/2010 20:28 . I don’t know their names. And Robert Towne would not have had the dispute he relates here. Here the documentary virtually palls in tone and spirit: is that grief in the voices and faces of Monte Hellman.A Decade Under the Influence http://home. Easy Riders. the decade of the ‘disaster’ picture. conversely. which had been initiated in 1968. honing their craft in low budget exploitation pictures. A Decade Under the Influence overlooks this milestone entirely. they were a persuasive lot who finagled a degree of autonomy from broadminded backers and distributors. Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). an environment existed where. satiric.” Robert Altman. William Friedkin declares. Martin Scorsese. The writers.comcast. and by the time A Decade Under the Influence reaches Jaws (1975). there wasn’t damage control enough to woo a paying audience. hate it. By the time they hit theatres. But the artist ruled for only so long. Unless we were distracted by all that was going on. churning out movies remembered chiefly for their meager budgets and impossibly tight shooting schedules than any aesthetic or socially redeeming values. Without the ‘R’ rating. “were all on the same page. uses his own distinct approach: “The filmmakers who influenced me the most. When asked to name their influences. New York (1977). A Decade Under the Influence recognizes the groundbreaking advance of adult themes in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and the progression of John Cassavetes’s improvisational experiments. Mom! (1970).net/~flickhead/Decade-Under-the-Influence. Metaphysic. or Deliverance (1972) for its homosexual rape. bursting with ideas. Without it. Dennis Hopper. an amusing quandary with producers over how many times he should use the word ‘motherfucker’ in his script for The Last Detail (1973). and” — sweeping his hand to divide rank — “then there was everybody else. Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (New York: Simon & Schuster. Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love (1975). As members of what once was labeled “The new American cinema. Because I would go see a film. and excess would soon sour the reputations of ‘superstar’ directors: Scorsese’s New York.” and generated a branch of cinema that turned the glamour of old Hollywood inside-out.html conformity of the 50’s. and Bruce Dern (here providing a killer Jack Nicholson impression) have no shortage of stories about “Roger Corman’s guerilla university of filmmaking.” this far-from-beat generation have remained enthusiastic about the art and. “It was an audience that had been politicized by Vietnam and Watergate. The Panic in Needle Park (1971). The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) and Chinatown (1974) could also be intellectually and emotionally draining. and enabled Altman. actors and directors who’d be influenced the most were then working at the opposite end of the spectrum. introspective and nose-thumbing. to borrow from Sissy Spacek. films like Hi. power. After the remarkable popularity of The Exorcist.” as it’s affectionately referred to by Peter Bogdanovich. Hal Ashby and Bob Rafelson to subvert traditional forms. for the most part. “The director was trump. One important factor that allowed their films a liberal handling of sexuality and vulgar language was the MPAA ratings system. Studios and financiers and directors. beginning around the time of Easy Rider (1969) and lasting through Network (1976). we see the dawn of yet another new Hollywood. studio-controlled movies evaporated entirely — it was. Julie Christie.” Heady films for heady viewers. escapism became the seminal buzzword. The liberation and creativity under the ratings system enticed Francis Coppola and Sidney Lumet to expand the parameters of drama. whose consciousness had been changed with drugs.” says producer John Calley. after all. and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) all fell victim to reports of ridiculously excessive budgets and unrestrained egos behind the camera. 1999). as American drama became visibly affected by the naturalism of postwar European cinema. “It was an open audience.
Jaws isn’t a bad movie — time may reveal it to be the best thing Steven Spielberg’s ever done — but it opened the door for artlessly pretentious. . (At the end. the crossover to superficiality was clear. For more information contact Docurama . Which. epic bubblegum. Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme close at this point. A who’s who in a depressing chapter for a future volume of Hollywood Babylon we hope will never be written.) Though these omissions are not minor quibbles.) It was a long. merchandising. and American cinema experienced a candy-coated epiphany. (Gordon Parks and Melvin Van Peebles go unmentioned.html many unwanted ideas. while a brief inclusion of Pam Grier concentrates on her “hooties in the jungle” exploitation movies for Roger Corman. A Decade Under the Influence neglects some areas — the arresting psychological fringe of the early Henry Jaglom films and Milton Moses Ginsberg’s Coming Apart (1969). Clint Eastwood found his voice as an artist. shifted the concerns of the media and public from art to capital: budgets. opening weekend.A Decade Under the Influence http://home. in turn. Towne. Bogdanovich. and the double-entendre of ‘back end’ deals.and lowbrow films is too vast a subject for any one documentary. the arrival of the producer as auteur. and the uneasy alliance of high. and Sidney Pollack abided by the rules and earned a fortune. they apologize for any exclusions. With Star Wars (1977). Altman dipped into obscure filmed stage plays. franchises. Copyright © 2004 by Ray Young 3 de 3 30/06/2010 20:28 . Where else can you go? Coppola. A Decade Under the Influence is miraculous for covering as much ground as it does. a picture devised at the lowest rung of Hollywood’s food chain (the vacuous Saturday matinee serial gussied up as celebratory event). and Dennis Hopper entertained with anger issues (re: Blue Velvet) and yarns about drug abuse. Scorsese and Friedkin wandered out of the 70’s as if nursing a hangover. Ellen Burstyn sank below radar. LaGravenese and Demme shouldn’t be faulted for shortsightedness. the controlled violent horror of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) — and gives short shrift to the rise and commercial viability of 70’s black cinema.comcast. arduous decade.net/~flickhead/Decade-Under-the-Influence.
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