Neil Young’s Film Lounge – A Decade Under The Influence



USA 2003 : Ted DEMME & Richard LaGRAVENESE : c108 mins*

The interviewees (on camera) : Robert Altman, John G. Avildsen, Peter Bogdanovich, Marshall Brickman, Ellen Burstyn, John Calley, Julie Christie, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, Bruce Dern, Clint Eastwood, Peter Fonda, Milos Forman, William Friedkin, Pam Grier, Monte Hellman, Dennis Hopper, Sidney Lumet, Paul Mazursky, Mike Medavoy, Polly Platt, Sydney Pollack, Jerry Schatzberg, Roy Scheider, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, Sissy Spacek, Robert Towne, Jon Voight.

The interviewers (unseen) include : Demme, LaGravenese, plus Scott Frank, Alexander Payne, Neil Labute, Mike De Luca.

Structure : standard-issue (conservative) documentary format – talking heads + news footage + clips from key movies + stills montages.

Subject : American cinema of the (very) late) 1960s and 1970s, with special emphasis on the post-Easy Rider, pre-Jaws era from 1969 to 1975.

Tone : Self-congratulatory. Clearly Compiled by rabid fans – Demme and LaGravenese both bedazzled admirers of this ‘golden age’, even if their own directorial efforts (LaGravenese’s Living Out Loud, Demme’s Blow) won’t feature in any future documentaries about turn-of-the-new-century US cinema.

Best value : Friedkin (surprisingly coherent), Bogdanovich, Ellen Burstyn.

Hero : Corman, who clearly deserves a documentary to himself (oops – he already got one: Roger Corman: Hollywood’s Wild Angel [Christian Blackwood, 1978])

Gimmick : The ‘new generation’ interviewers, most of them very bright sparks, who only appear during the closing credits after the interviews have finished. We very seldom even hear their questions. Why bother recruiting such illustrious names? Publicity purposes? Much better to have put them on screen and filmed segments in dialogue/interview form.

Couldn’t have put it better myself : “For neophyte cinephiles, A Decade Under The Influence should serve as a lively primer on a seminal film era, but its reverent tone is antithetical to the rule-breaking spirit it celebrates.” [Todd Rabin, The Onion AV Club website.]

23rd April, 2004
(approx.108-minute version seen on VHS, Sunderland, 1st April)

* full version reportedly runs 138 mins

by Neil Young