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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
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by Scott Weinberg

"If you lived through the 70's, you may not have noticed at the time, but..."
5 stars

Bonnie & Clyde. Easy Rider. The French Connection. Mean Streets. The Godfather. The Last Picture Show. The Exorcist. Jaws. Chinatown. Apocalypse Now. Star Wars. Raging Bull. Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese, Penn, Lucas, Friedkin, Polanski, Bogdanovich, Milius, Zemeckis, DePalma, and a dozen others. THAT'S what the 1970's gave to the canon of American a time when Hollywood desperately needed a shot in the arm.

And speaking of 'shot in the arm', it seems that literally everyone even remotely related to American film production was mega-zonked out on drugs. Perhaps this narcotic-induced haze is what Hollywood needed to get its creative juices flowing again, but (for better or for worse) it's clear that we're still feeling the effects thirty years later. (After all, what is The Mummy other than Jaws Part 243?)

At the end of the sixties, Hollywood was churning out mostly outdated and very expensive spectacles that simply failed to put asses in the seats. (Cleopatra is the poster child, but there were several others.) A healthy infusion of new blood - fresh out of film school - is precisely what the doctor ordered. Waning were the high-budget musicals and bloated productions; low-budget risk-taking and artistic vision were the order of the day.

Enter a Coppola and a Bogdanovich and a Hopper and a Nicholson. Steven Spielberg cuts his teeth on TV flicks and brings his buddy George Lucas to the set. DeNiros pair up with Scorseses. Roger Corman employed and supported a stunning array of future auteurs. The visionary violence of Arthur Penn's Bonnie & Clyde infuriated a few while inspiring artists to push the 'bloodletting' envelope. All of a sudden, American movies actually had something to say - and they said things loudly and colorfully.

Peter Biskind's book represents behind-the-scenes storytelling at its best. His work stands as a delicious compendium of licnentious (yet true) gossip while proving to be a fascinating history of Hollywood's second Golden Age. Simply put, it's one of the best "movie books" ever published.

And Ken Bowser's movie adaptation, though more interested in the historical details and less on the bedroom dalliances, marks a brilliant companion to Biskind's tome. More than a simple Cliffs Notes version, this documentary is so overstuffed with 1970's movie minutiae that most movies fans will hate to see it end.

Through a series of 'talking head' interviews intercut with ample footage of the era's seminal films, Easy Riders Raging Bulls digs into its subject material with a colorfully workmanlike enthusiasm. The result is a two hour history lesson on the world's most fascinating subject, and it goes without saying that a flick like this is a Movie Animal's fondest wish.

Yet like the best documentaries, this one makes its material accessible, educational, and altogether entertaining. But even the most casual filmgoer is familiar with most of the movies discussed here, and will undoubtedly appreciate their collective influence on the Movie Biz, a staggeringly cool influence that actually changed movies for the better. Boy are those influences rare.

Sure, there were a lot of crappy movies released in the 1970's, but there's no denying this was a revolutionary era for American film. Man, could we use another revolution right about now.

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originally posted: 01/28/03 16:15:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/23/06 robjames702 essential viewing for film afficionados 4 stars
5/17/04 samantha i loved it! 5 stars
8/20/03 Kisgyorgy Tamas The best of the movei production 5 stars
5/27/03 Dennis Simoncelli very informative 5 stars
5/22/03 Dane interesting piece of history/culture 4 stars
3/27/03 Bluto McBlurt This was great! I loved it! 5 stars
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  09-Mar-2003 (NR)
  DVD: 11-May-2004



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