Sunday, November 23, 2008

Peter Biskind - Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

The 1970s was an important era of transition for Hollywood. It marked the time when the blockbuster summer film came to the for, making the major film companies rich beyond anyone's imagination. It marked a brief time, when film directors were gods, commanding huge amounts of cash and ruling, dictatorially over actors, film crew and even the movie companies themselves.

Inspired in part by the radical years of the late 1960s, but more often, inspired by great European film makers whose own radical ideas led them to challenge film convention, a new breed of US director shook up the industry. This was a period when great films stunned viewers - Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, American Graffiti and the first of the blockbusters, Jaws and Star Wars.

The men who made them, garnered fabulous wealth and Peter Biskind here looks at those directors. They are all larger than life, many of them seem to have severe character defects (or at least eccentricities), Biskind lets us eavesdrop on the gossip and stories of the time, tells us just how cocaine was the fuel for the entire industry, and shows how alcoholism was part and parcel of a film maker's life.

Women do feature, though usually as the abused, ignored and hated spouses of these men. With the power and wealth of the directors came lots of sexual encounters - the myriad of affairs destroying many a Hollywood marriage.

If you like film, you'll probably love this book. Though the book has little on the films themselves, concentrating more on the processes that allowed their creation - the deals, the characters and the traumas (as well as the occasional over-budget disaster), it is an easy read and will probably mean you watching the movies with a slightly, perhaps more jaundiced eye.

Related Reviews

Biskind - Seeing is Believing
Frankel - High Noon

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