Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Decade Under the Influence

mean streets
Originally uploaded by Raid71
Thanks to some amazing film professors, a 70’s Film Genres class and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls I have a love and affinity for the films that came out of the 1970’s that is second only to my love of noir. The 1970’s truly invented what would become modern American cinema and produced some of the best artists in the history of the medium, which is exactly what A Decade Under the Influence seeks to show.

A Decade Under the Influence is a must-see for anyone that has a love of the films from the 1970’s; the documentary is told in three parts, but could easily have been stretched to many more by IFC as the pool of talent and films they have to draw on is seemingly endless. The 1970’s are the years that gave us Scorsese, Spielberg, Bogdanovich, Coppola, Dennis Hopper, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, counter-culture in film, the first summer blockbuster, the decline of the dying studio system, the rise of the independents and more than can possibly be covered in just three hours.

One thing that A Decade Under the Influence covers beautifully is the story behind the rise of the great filmmakers in the decade, and how they ended up becoming the establishment they were fighting against. So many of the artists working in the 1970’s wanted to tell stories that were avoided by the studios, and to be allowed to do it on their own terms. When their films proved to be viable the artists were granted slow access to the studios, until the “gritty” way they made films ended up becoming a studio norm and the anti-establishment became the establishment. While none of this discounts their artistic credibility, it does explain how after a decade of turbulent fighting for the art of filmmaking the artists managed to win the battles but loose the war.

Perhaps what makes A Decade Under the Influence so memorable is that the people whose works are lauded in the series are the ones that populate it – there are interviews with Scorsese, Coppola, Dennis Hopper, and anyone that would get in front of the camera and talk about what they remember from their filmmaking experiences in the 70’s. It’s in their own words and you can feel the passion and the vibrance they remember experiencing as it was all happening for them.

Watching A Decade Under the Influence makes me hope that we will currently be undergoing another succession of artistic change in the film industry; one that doesn’t care as much about numbers as it does about viable art and the long haul process to get an audience to accept it.

Directors: Tedd Demme & Richard LaGravenese

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