A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
Decade Under the Influence,” a feature-length version of a three-part series to be shown on the Independent Film Channel in August, is a breezy, uncritical, frankly nostalgic documentary about Hollywood in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. It was a time when the studios, reeling from their failure to attract the new generation of filmgoers, briefly threw their gates open to outsiders — mainly young directors formed by film schools and highly conscious of the European art film tradition.
Directed by the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King”) and the director Ted Demme (“Blow”), who died last year, the film is a standard-issue parade of talking heads interspersed with clips. It does little but reinforce the romantic notions about 70’s filmmaking that seem to have taken root among the current generation of Hollywood’s young Turks.
Here, indeed, are the usual suspects: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper and Paul Schrader, each trying to account in his own way for the fleeting moment of artistic freedom with which all their careers began.
Mr. Schrader presents the most cogent, and certainly funniest, explanation of the 70’s boom in personal filmmaking: the studios, stunned by big-budget bombs like “Hello Dolly” and “Star,” were willing to give money to anyone who could tell them he could provide what the new audience wanted. And since these young directors had no track record to speak of, there was nothing to prove they could not.
The picture, which opens today in New York, has the undiscriminating temperament of a fan, blithely placing Mr. Coppola’s magnificently made “Godfather” on the same plane as Mr. Hopper’s slapped-together, and today all but unwatchable, “Easy Rider.” As the clips mount up, the sense of smug, generational entitlement on which many of these films depended becomes depressingly clear: here, in clip after clip, are cocky young men (Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould, Dustin Hoffman) venting their self-righteousness on cardboard establishment figures, a suspiciously large number of them played by women. (The excerpt from “M*A*S*H,” in which Mr. Gould and Donald Sutherland bully a couple of nurses, seems particularly egregious.)
The decade did, of course, produce two enduring feminist stars: Julie Christie, who speaks in the film with the radiant sincerity that has always been hers, and Jane Fonda, who does not appear but is ably represented by her best director, Sydney Pollack. Curious, then, that both are represented in “A Decade Under the Influence” by films in which they played prostitutes, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Klute.”
“A Decade Under the Influence” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian) for its language and images of sexuality, violence and drug use.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme
R, 108 minutes
Source: The New York Times
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