Kenneth Bowser | 113 mins | DVD | 15
Documentary, based on the best-selling acclaimed book by Peter Biskind, about the decade in Hollywood between the death and effective re-birth of the studio system.
It’s a broad story, with many threads, which means this film has a tendency to sprawl all over the place as it attempts to take an overview of it in chronological order. Consequently it’s short on great insight, but does provide an overview of what went on in this period — that is, the story of how Hollywood made the transition from the old studio system to the era of the blockbuster (a method which still more or less exists), via a brief period where directors truly had auteur-level control.
There are numerous interesting interviewees to help the story along, all of them people who were actually there, who lived through it and helped create it. This makes for a refreshing change, as most documentaries of this ilk seem to be full of film historians and journalists. Of course, there are many big names notable by their absence, so when the film makes its rambling way onto the likes of Scorsese and Spielberg that familiar sense of historic detachment does begin to creep in.
All told, it gives a good overview of the shape of what happened in this period, and how Hollywood became what we know today. Anyone after deeper explorations (of the period, the people, or the films themselves) will want to look elsewhere. I suspect the book may be a good place to start.