Directed By: Kenneth Bowser
Starring: Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich
Tag line: "How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood"
Trivia: Among those who declined to be interviewed in the documentary were George Lucas and William Friedkin
So there’s a sequence in 2003’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, a documentary based on the controversial novel by Peter Biskind, where we’re watching clips from an 8mm home movie, shot in either the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. It was taken inside a California beachfront house that, at the time, was being rented by actresses Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt, and shows a bunch of people sitting around and talking, pausing occasionally to mug for the camera. But these weren’t your everyday house guests; among the revelers were Brian De Palma, John Milius, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and producers Michael & Julia Phillips. Also there, standing on the other side of a dining room table holding a camera of his own, was Steven Spielberg. In the coming years, this talented group of filmmakers would once again put Hollywood on the cinematic map, yet when this home movie was shot, they were, as Jennifer Salt put it, “Nerdy guys who wanted to hang around with each other and talk about movies”. Can you imagine being a fly on the wall, listening in on those conversations?
As someone who loves movie, I’m finding it hard to imagine anything else!
Narrated by William H. Macy, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is a BBC-produced documentary that spells out, as the tagline put it, “How the Sex, Drug, and Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood”. With the studio system in turmoil, it fell to a group of novice filmmakers to rescue American movies, which they did by reaching out to a younger generation of fans. With films like Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Last Picture Show, this “new wave” brought Hollywood back from the brink of oblivion, and, in so doing, changed the face of American movies forever.
Through interviews and archival footage, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls takes us behind the scenes of many of these groundbreaking classics, relating a number of fascinating stories, like how studio chief Jack Warner couldn’t make heads or tails of Bonnie and Clyde, and why most of the major studios passed on distributing Martin Scorsese’s breakout movie, Mean Streets. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is an excellent source for film fanatics, but there’s plenty of drama here as well for the more casual fans, including a few scandals (Peter Bogdanovich’s affair with Cybill Shepherd on the set of The Last Picture Show) and the odd tragedy (the murder of director Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, one of several people carved up by Charles Manson and his followers in 1969).
As a movie addict, I wanted Easy Riders, Raging Bulls to run for 6 hours. But even clocking in at just two, this material makes for one entertaining, informative documentary.