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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
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by Chris Parry

"A fantastic follow-up to a fantastic book. It had me at 'hello'."
4 stars

From the first few frames of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I knew I was going to be enjoying the next few hours of TV immensely. Much like last year's The Kid Stays In The Picture, this is a documentary that looks back on the seachange of Hollywood's power structure from the late 60's through the 70's, entertaining and informing through the telling of west coast war stories, while displaying old footage and stills in a style that is very much modern day.

Just as Jim Bouton's 'Ball Four' took baseball fans into the reality of the dressing room for the first time, sparking rage amongst the baseball elite who felt their privacy had been invaded, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls took movie fans into the inner circle of the gang that would turn Hollywood from a Doris Day production line into an artistic movement, once more sparking widespread protest from those named.

At least, that's the way it was a decade ago. In hindsight it seems those people have finally realized that admitting they spent the 70's on acid isn't going to hurt their careers one bit. Nor will the group sex. Nor the cocaine. Nor the wasting of millions of dollars of other people's money. It's history baby, yeah!

And that's what makes Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: The TV Documentary so fascinating. Biskind's book was salascious, went for the balls, found whatever it could find that might shock or amaze, delved into the dirty details of marriages and affairs. On the other hand, the documentary ignores much of the 'gold' Biskind tied his fortunes to and instead found the real story - the coming of age of the directors who would be kings. Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, Bogdanovich, Polanski, Peckinpah, Hopper, Beatty, the list goes on and on and on.

When the 60's were coming to a close, the movies were aimed at an older crowd. The kids only watched TV, everyone knew that, and even though folks like Roger Corman had turned good coin providing exploitation flicks for the teen-friendly drive-ins, the establishment saw the teen market as a niche. They preferred Fred Astaire and Doris Day and Hitchcock. Blips on the radar like Brando and James Dean were abberations in their eyes, not a sign of things to come.

That is until Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper put together the seminal work, Easy Rider. Connecting with young audiences in ways the studios could never have predicted, this drug-addled production with a muddled message and characters right out of San Francisco hippy culture earned good coin, reached an audience long thought dead, and started a steamroller that would bring the world some of the finest movies of our time before it was done.

The Godfather. Mean Streets. Taxi Driver. Rosemary's Baby. American Graffiti. Raging Bull. The Last Picture Show. Bonnie and Clyde. The Exorcist. Harold and Maude. The Wild Bunch. A Clockwork Orange.

Suddenly Doris Day was out of a job.

But through all of that success, there was also failure, and a lot of it. The cocaine was taking a toll, the 'godfather' of the new kids in Hollywood, Francis Coppola, was losing money hand over fist, and the lack of oversight into what was being produced and whether it had an audience eventually saw things skid to a halt.

And then Jaws changed everything... again.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is quality television of the highest order. Though it tends to skip around the timeline willy nilly, losing a little focus and causing knowledgable audiences to wonder where things are going, the interviews of those involved in the scene at the time bring proceedings up to a whole new level.

We shall never see a groundswell of change like this in Hollywood ever again, and that alone makes Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and important piece of filmmaking. Kudos to the Trio Channel for putting it together, and check your local TV listings for information on when it'll be showing near you.

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originally posted: 03/27/03 07:43:04
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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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