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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
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Jul 04, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from June 30 to July 04, 2012

An insider look at Hollywood and film-making in the 1970's, with a particular emphasis on the major directors and producers of the era, it's a vicious and nasty piece of work. The major players are directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg, Altman, Friedkin, Ashby, Rafelson, and more. Warren Beatty, Hopper, Nicholson, Bob Evans, Bert Schneider are also major players and the books spares none of them.

It's particularly interesting to follow the reactions of these guys as they claw their way out of the old school studio systems of Hollywood to get to make their own pictures their own way and produce what they felt were great works of art and tried to collect critical raves. With success came greater power and control and was met with a raging indulgence in excess, resulting in the destruction of much of what they fought for.

Drugs and sex are strewn all over this book, along with raging paranoia, mental illness, massive egotism, and incredibly bad behavior by some pretty crappy people. Some of them seem to have realized their failures and flaws, others not so much. The stench of arrogance and egotism still reeks off a lot of these guys (it's almost entirely a book about men; there were almost no female directors, writers or producers back then), especially when they talk about film today.

It's a fascinating book. I'm not sure Biskind really understood just exactly what his book uncovered here; he seems too comfortable accepting the belief that the studios seized power back from the directors and "artists" after seeing the money available from blockbusters in a natural reaction to the opportunity and pushing them out to put control back at the top. It's not wrong exactly, but after illustrating how the raging egotism, drug abuse, paranoia, etc. from some of these guys crashed movie after movie with cost overruns and inability to overcome their personal demons to complete the work, it seems clear that the studios also took control back from the directors because most of these guys couldn't handle the responsibility of having that level of power and control.

These guys destroyed themselves for the most part, leaving behind a legacy of occasionally brilliant film-making and wasted opportunities and talent.
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