12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An incomplete look at a pivotal cultural moment,
This review is from: A Decade Under the Influence (DVD)
This quick, glitzy documentary, which looks at the maverick filmmaking that reshaped Hollywood in the late 1960s and throughout the '70s, has its ups and downs. At first I thought the lack of a central narrative voice, "telling" us what we're supposed to know, was kind of cool: "Yeah," I thought, "We're smart enough to understand what happened, and all these intelligent, thoughtful rebel filmmakers -- Coppola, Scorcese, Altman, Hopper, Dern, Eastwood, et al. -- can guide us through the history better than any dumb old narrator can... After all, they *lived* it, man...!!" But, sadly, this was not true: by the end of the three segments, I felt a little lost, and even a little cheated... I wasn't really sure what these advocates of independent cinema were trying to tell me, and while the parade of film clips and archival artwork (wish I'd taken notes!) was entertaining, it wasn't particularly well contextualized. The story arc, as such, was that Hollywood, having lost its bearings (and ability to produce hit movies) by the mid-1960s, almost accidentally discovered the rich offerings of low-budget, independent cinema. Suddenly, young, unproven writers and directors were given unfettered creative license, and throughout the 1970s they pushed the boundaries of artistic expression, breaking down taboos against exploring sexual, political and drug-related themes, as well as demolishing the boundaries of language and onscreen violence. Then, as the '80s opened, the push towards producing blockbuster hits reestablished the dominance of the old studio system. But the material between these central points is a diffuse parade of spectacle and insider asides, not as well structured or as informative as it could have been.
Also, on a technical note, why was the DVD version so hard to navigate? What was up with having to start up each segment of this film separately? Watching it on VHS might actually have been more rewarding...