A Decade Under the Influence

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

The last 2 years have been great for documentaries about filmmaking within Hollywood past and present and this documentary is no exception. The films of the seventies have always been a good subject to analyze, look over and appreciate in retrospect. One thing that can be attested to this curiosity is that this was truly a decade that a lot of filmmakers got their vision through, got away with a lot, and demonstrated a lot of rises and falls giving us one of the best decades in American film. Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme’s constantly entertaining three-part documentary reminds us most of all that the decade of the seventies was truly “A Decade Under The Influence”.

The first part, “Influences and Independents”, starts off at the end of the 1960’s with the fall of the studio system not living up to their expectations resulting in a lot of high profile projects with many disasterous returns. The French New Wave of the early 60s and the international filmmakers of that time gave way to many up-and-coming filmmakers making smaller movies, taking lesser to no salaries and getting a better response from audiences than any of the product Hollywood was turning out.

The second part, “The New Hollywood”, focuses on the result of the studios giving in to these filmmakers and letting loose to movies that either became classic at the time or are looked upon as classics now. The new Hollywood also gave way to a new kind of leading man and leading woman identifying with the time of letting the average looking people get center stage.

The last part, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” shows the end of the freedoms, the rise of money and marketing increasing in the studios and the idea of playing it safe. The end of the seventies also signaled the demise of the personal filmmaker and the inspirations on today’s independent filmmakers to never lose the vision to take a chance.

From the main title sequence, which reminds me of watching the local late movie with all it’s colorful shapes and film photos in between, to the wonderful disclaimer towards the end of Part 3, this is a great representation and a wonderful film school lesson about this constantly curious time period in film. There are many players included in this from actors to directors to writers to studio heads and executives and all give great insight to what was going on and how their contribution made a difference. Some of these figures got interview time with today’s directors and some got time with the directors of the documentary and there is never a dull moment. I wanted to be there, like the filmmakers at the end of each part, during those off-interview moments chatting it up with all these figures of 70s cinema. Both LaGravanese and Demme compiled great clips of many 70s films along with photos and posters reminding me of some of the great stuff of this time and a need to catch up to many of the films featured that I haven’t seen yet as well as ending it off with a touching tribute to Ted Demme. To sum it up, “A Decade Under The Influence” is an influential documentary that film buffs and fans of 70s cinema and many more curious about film will like and is worth checking out more than once in all it’s parts.

Video: How does it look?

The documentary is shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and gives a sharp picture all the way through without many halos or artifacts. Most of the film clips shown are in their original aspect ratio and are represented from great to a little grainy. A solid transfer all the way through.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a good one but not a great one. The entire documentary is well represented loud enough to hear the dialogue and the clips and the sound is well balanced. However, it is not a mindblowing demonstration of a home theater system’s sound capabilities, that’s the good news. The bad news lies in the additional interviews in the extras that the audio either stays up to par or is lower than the documentary to raise the volume above the average volume on your remote. This disc cries for English subtitles in that instance, which unfortunately are not included on this disc. That’s the disc’s only downside.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As mentioned in the audio review, there are additional interviews with most of the figures in this documentary and they supply either extended footage or footage that was not used but is valuable information that is well worth the watch viewed either with an individual clip or all clips. There’s bios on both Richard LaGravanese and Ted Demme along with the Docurama Catalog that displays summaries of their titles as well as trailers of select titles. No trailer for this documentary is included on this disc.

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