Easy Riders, Raging Bulls : How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Kenneth Bowser (Dir.)
Reviewed by Nia Rodgers, Evenings and Weekend Services Coordinator, RIS
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood is a long title for a book, and an even longer title for a film. Adapted from a book of the same title by Peter Biskind, this documentary combines still photos, film clips, and live interviews with a pantheon of acting notables – Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Cybill Shepard, as well as numerous screenwriters, producers, and directors.
The basic premise of the film and book is that television was killing the Hollywood studios until the mid-1960s, when wunderkinds like Roman Polanski, Peter Bogdanovich, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas arrived on the scene. An exploration of the idea of auteur primacy in the creation of a film is balanced by the various reactions of these highly pressured individuals, including heavy drug use and suicide. The interviews feel intimate and honest, but some of the interviewees are clearly hostile to one another and less inclined to travel down memory lane.
There are only two downsides to this film. The first is that Coppola, Spielberg, and Lucas do not appear in the film (they did allow interviews for the book). This is especially glaring in the case of Steven Spielberg, who created the first modern blockbuster with Jaws and has been the most commercially successful director to date. The second is that this is not a serious history of film. Many films, and filmmakers, are left out of this production, giving it a gossipy feel that might not appeal to some.
Overall, this film provides an excellent opportunity to hear a variety of personal anecdotes from a remarkable set of people who changed forever how Americans see film.