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This is a fascinating book, documenting the period from the early 70s when a new, young crowd of film-makers descended on Hollywood determined to break the established system where the studio was king, and everyone else did as they were told. But be warned, this is hard-edged and often difficult reading, as the young crowd tasted initial success, only to create an environment worse than the system they sought to overthrow. Much, much worse…
In telling the tale, the writer looks closely at a number of seminal films from the 70s, including Bonnie & Clyde, Easy Rider, French Connection, Jaws, Apocalypse Now and, of course, The Godfather. In every case, these were films made by directors looking to make their mark in the world, whilst at the same time refusing to give way to the studios when they questioned the director’s approach. The ‘inner circle’ of this group of mavericks include Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Bogdanovich and Freidkin, and the book looks at their careers during the 70s, from early struggles and failures, through to the breakthrough films that made them famous, and then to the long, painful fall from grace, as all but Spielberg struggle to recreate their early successes.
Nobody comes out of this book with any integrity. I suppose it’s a fact of life that reasonable people don’t become movie directors, but this bunch are nothing more than petulant, indulged children, who see no problem with throwing tantrums (and often other things) on the set or even in public.
Without doubt, the worst of the bunch is Scorsese, who’s temper tantrums are legendary. On one occasion, whilst staying at a plush Hollywood hotel, Scorsese’s wife is on the ‘phone with a business partner, and she is getting angry at him. Marty Scorsese snatches the ‘phone from her, screams abuse at the caller, and then rips the ‘phone out of the wall. Then, still vibrating with anger, he goes downstairs to the lobby to call the guy on a payphone, so he can continue to scream at him.
Lucas, frets over whether his idea for ‘Star Wars’ is actually any good. This mood is not helped by De Palma, Scorsese and Coppola telling him it’s a rubbish idea and he should make ‘Art Films’. Only Spielberg is supportive. When the original Star Wars becomes the biggest grossing film ever, Lucas becomes an overnight megalomaniac, and refuses to help, or even talk to, his former confederates.
And if you think they treated each other poorly, wait until you read how they treated those on the periphery of their universes. Writers, Editors, Backers, Actors and, especially, would-be actress/models are simply used and thrown away like Kleenex.
And one by one, they all follow the same path, as success instils in each an arrogance and ego of unbelievable proportions. Coppola sets the bar here; following the outstanding success of his Godfather films, he sets off to Manilla to shoot Apocalypse Now. He is told by locals that monsoon season is coming, and typhoons are a regular event where he aims to shoot. Does he listen? He does not, and instead builds enormous million-dollar sets in the middle of nowhere, and then throws a tantrum and starts firing people when, as predicted, the whole thing is destroyed by a typhoon.
This book leaves you with the impression that the film-makers of the 70s were simply making it up as they went. Most times they got it wrong, but every so often things fell into place, and a classic was born.
Narration by Dick Hill is excellent, and keeps you engaged throughout.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This is great value for money, its a long and interesting listen.
A friend recommended this book years ago and I couldn't get into it. But it really works as an audio book.
No one really comes out of this book well apart from perhaps Jack Nicholson. These great women and men are reduced to ego-maniac, childish bullies and nerds. Biskind's style is very sensationalist,scurrilous and yet compelling.
The narrator is superb and his delivery is measured, waspish and hilarious.
A great listen.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about Easy Riders, Raging Bulls? What did you like least?
This book is chock full of great inside baseball on the making of many of the great classic movies of the late 60s and 70s and juicy gossip about the directors, actors and other Hollywood figures who made them. That alone is worth the price of admission.
On the other hand, the analysis from the point of view of film history left me feeling like something was missing -- the audience. So many of these now-classic films were made under protest or fraught with production problems or in some cases even total accidents, and by contrast, so many of the labors of love and pet projects and can't-miss efforts were failures, yet the analysis never looks at the vagaries of public tastes, opinions and reactions and the overriding determinant of what works and what doesn't.
Would you recommend Easy Riders, Raging Bulls to your friends? Why or why not?
I would recommend the book to friends because of all the salacious detail and the many forgotten facts (e.g. Raging Bull was critical and commercial flop when it was first released). But I would warn them that beyond that, the analysis was less than rigorous.
Which character – as performed by Dick Hill – was your favorite?
Not really relevant in a non-fiction work that touched on many, many different real-life characters and quoted scores of people. But Hill does a good job of narrating those many quotes.
Was Easy Riders, Raging Bulls worth the listening time?
Because the analysis was suspect, it can be argued that at 24 hours, it was overlong. It would have worked better as an inside look at the making of these movies without the analysis, in which case it would have probably come in at a more manageable 16-18 hours.
Any additional comments?
In addition to overlooking the impact of audiences and lionizing some questionable characters who often stumbled into their success, the history of 70s cinema as presented here is myopic. First of all, to draw a straight line from Bonnie and Clyde through Heaven's Gate is a mistake, because there is one line that goes up to Jaws and Star Wars and another than emerges from the impact of those two blockbusters (the book does not overlook that impact, but it doesn't treat it as the watershed it truly was).
But more than that, there is no more than token mention of the groundbreaking Hollywood filmmaking of the post-war era that set the stage for the "New Hollywood" and the independent cinema that emerged from the ashes of Heaven's Gate. Kudos to the author for giving so much attention to the often forgotten Hal Ashby, but others that emerged from the live TV dramas of the 50s are barely mentioned (e.g. Lumet) or not mentioned at all (most egregiously, George Roy Hill), even though they were responsible for some of the seminal films of the era.
Likewise, the ruination of Hollywood that we are left with at the conclusion makes no mention of the fact that The Return of the Secaucus Seven had already launched indie film, to be followed by the likes of Jarmusch, the Coens, Spike Lee, Soderbergh, et.al. in the 80s, that Hollywood still had some tricks up its sleeve (John Hughes, Barry Levinson, Rob Reiner, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, James Cameron -- how many people remember that The Terminator was an independent film that was a total sleeper when it first came out?), that Miramax was already founded before the end of the 80s, that the midnight movie phenomenon had already launched auteurs like David Lynch and John Waters, and that there were still a lot of good imports coming from other countries (despite this book's assertion that foreign film became irrelevant once Hollywood films were allowed to show nudity and sex).
And newsflash for the author: Woody Allen has directed 45 movies since the only one that is mentioned in this book (What's New Pussycat, which he didn't even direct), many of the most important of those during the New Hollywood era and immediately thereafter.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Easy Riders, Raging Bulls in three words, what would they be?
Real Eye Opener!
What did you like best about this story?
This book is fascinating if you studied film in the '70's or are a film buff. We idolized these guys, analyzed their movies with great seriousness, intently picked apart all the details, wrote papers on them...hearing the back story here completely floored me. All these guys are people just like us, only they were given free reign to go berserk professionally, financially and many times personally. I adored this book, I laughed out loud all the way through it. An amazing bunch of guys (and a few of the wives and girlfriends stand out too), they made movies I've never stopped loving, but this book did me a favor and brought them out of my college days' perceived god status of them and brought them down to earth.
Have you listened to any of Dick Hill???s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Yes, just as good. He is only suited for a certain type of book and this is definitely one of them!
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Way too long to do that but I HATED to finally reach the end. In theory, yes.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful