sex, drugs, & megalomania
I just spent the last 72 hours reading Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, a sprawling, obsessively detailed account of Hollywood in the 60s and the 70s. The time then, as Bob Dylan so famously put it, was a'changing. Sexual revolution, pot, and Vietnam were looming in the horizon and an entire generation of artists were hellbent in changing Hollywood. Elsewhere, Nouvelle Vague was happening and the French, with its auteur theory, was about to change the face of cinema. Indeed, it was heady time to be a filmmaker and American filmmakers, with Francis Ford Coppola in the forefront, were staging an invasion of the film studios. And surprisingly they succeeded, albeit very briefly.
It was certainly a rare moment in American cinema when the film director reigned supreme: Coppola, Bogdanovich, Beatty, Friedkin, etc. were treated like gods and not surprisingly, ruled like demons. With so much sex, drugs, and megalomania going on during that time, one wonders how the filmmakers made any film at all. But boy, the movies that they made!The Godfather. The Last Picture Show. Bonnie and Cylde. Taxi Driver. Apocalypse Now. It was unprecedented.
But, as the 70s unraveled and the 80s kicked in, most of the filmmakers have either done their most significant work or were just a step away from ODing. Easy Riders, Ranging Bulls is more like a long tsismis than a how-to on making films. It is more interested in telling the readers how Bogdanovich was doing a Vertigo on his new wife or how Coppola was slowing descending into madness not unlike Col. Kurtz during the production of Apocalypse now or how Scorsese bled blood from every orifice in his body due to substance abuse or how a particular studio exec had his friend's ashes be inhaled like a cocaine during the funeral service.
Though a bid tawdry, harrowing in some places and inspiring in some, Easy Riders Raging Bulls is definitely a must read for anyone who has ever dreamed of being filmmaker.
Picture above: Francis Ford Coppola before he became a wine maker (haha).