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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
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by Carina Hoskisson

"You will not be disappointed by a moment of this unexpected documentary"
5 stars

Premiere March 9th, 2003 TRIO Channel :: SCREENED AT THE 2003 SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (directed by Kenneth Bowser from the book by Peter Biskind of the same name) is easily one of the most engrossing documentaries of the new decade. It is also better than most of the feature films I’ve seen during festival week--and the best at Slamdance yet. You are immediately hooked by the opening credits, which set the antiestablishment tone for the whole movie.

The tale begins with the back lot wasteland of late 1960’s Hollywood. The major studios are bloated whales, beached by their own faulty producing and mismanagement. Paramount, 20th Century Fox, all the bright lean wonder boys of the past forty years, are slowly dying under the weight of sinking behemoth Hello Dolly-like films. Cleopatra has bombed, bringing Warner Brothers to their knees. The American audience by and large, has left the theater unable to connect with the manufactured studio fare. Why go to the theater when you can see better programming on TV?

A few bright spots remain. The Europeans are producing films like 81/2. Goddard, Malle, and their contemporaries, are creating films outside the Studio system and far removed from the Tinsel town formula. Roger Corman is making B movies inside the system (for Fox) that actually make money and are drawing young audiences—to the Drive-In’s and the palaces. ERRB depicts Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Peter Bogdanovich gathering under the wing of Corman. Warren Beatty, sick of playing in movies with no substance, and influenced by the Europeans, is fighting his own battle to get films produced. The studios recognizing they have little to lose at this point begin to greenlight projects like Bonnie and Clyde out of sheer desperation to gain any audience.

The documentary, so promising in the exposition, begins to deliver through incredible stories of how Easy Riders, Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown were made. Fonda and Hopper aren’t paid money by Corman to assist in his movies. They are paid in equipment and film, which they use to start shooting their own ideas and material. Step by step, ERRB illustrates the choices and the machismo that new generation of directors employed to make their art. For the first time Autuer's were in control of the ship—or as the film puts it, the Lunatics have taken over the Asylum.

And the dirt…the Dirt! Easy Riders, Raging Bulls doesn’t gloss over the achievements and leave the work-product to imagination. Richard Dreyfuss admits to bad bad behavior, Julia Phillips (You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again) gives tribute to her coke problems, and Margot Kidder laughs at calling Lucas and Spielberg nerds. The scenes of Hitchcock’s AFI tribute are cut with the cocaine-fueled intensity of “the scene.” Hopper, who has always owned up to his substance issues, gives an illuminating commentary on his directorial plights. Most of this isn’t news, but the frank honesty with which the drugs, sex, and violence are discussed is brutal in its intensity.

I credit Bowser’s vision for creating a fascinating documentary out of stills and interviews. His team (ala The Kid Stays in the Picture) animates movie posters to bring movement and interest to the shots. The editing is impeccable: moving quickly through the stills and the short film pieces to draw you into the film. There was no shortage of times that I caught my breath to see the amazing cuts and splices. The narration, appropriately voiced by William H. Macy, moves the tale along at a good clip. The production is as solid and worthy as the subject matter it covers.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls proved so popular that the Slamdance festival had to add two more screenings, The Angry Jew and myself waited for two hours to see it. It is quite the laureate for Slamdance to screen this amazing movie. Catch it as soon as you can.

NOTE: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls will premiere on the TRIO Channel on March 9th, 2003. Check your local listings for the broadcast time.

Movie Junkie, recovering Hippie, film student, cultural historians and Joe Movie-goer take note. You will not be disappointed by a moment of this movie. It is perhaps one of the best documentaries on the industry ever made. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls doesn’t just deliver an entertaining picture, it creates the history of the movies that irrecovably changed America and the world.

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originally posted: 01/20/03 07:33:28
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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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