Book #23: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Most of my movie-loving friends just don't get that for me, it's not enough to see a bunch of movies.  I love to see how they're made: what went into the creation of the script, the casting, the directing.  I'm an unashamed lover of behind the scenes documentaries, audio commentaries, and books about film.  Not specific movies or people per se (although I have some of those, too), but books that take a look at film as a whole, whether it be reviews or criticism from the likes of Andrew Sarris, Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael, historys or how-to books like the excellent Making Movies by Sidney Lumet or The Story of Film by Mark Cousins (with the tasteful English cover, as opposed to the ridiculously garrish American cover), or even a reference book or two, like the surprisingly eclectic Defining Moments in Movies, edited by Chris Fujiwara.

The one glaring omission from the above was a book that looked at things from the business side of the equation.  And what Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind does is provide the business side, along with the artistic side, along with the drug side, the sex side, the gossip side...and all from one of the most creatively fertile periods in Hollywood history: the 1970s.  Starting roughly with BONNIE AND CLYDE and ending with the debacle that was Michael Cinemeo's HEAVEN'S GATE, Biskind's book shows how the "New Hollywood" was built on the ashes of the old studio system by the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Warren Beatty, William Friedkin, Peter Bodonovich, George Lucas and the like, but what's more fascinating is how these same people also caused the utter explosion of that same period, ushering in the new "blockbuster" studio system still alrgely in place today.  A lot of space is given to the self-destructive nature of all the major players, and a great emphasis is placed on the maverick producers like Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, Robert Evans and Barry Diller as they wheeled, dealed, and slept their way through movie history.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls goes a little more exploitive than my tastes usually call for, but Biskind goes out of his way to interview as many people as possible, and the stories are as enthralling as they are bug-fuck crazy.  You will never feel the same way about Steven Spielberg and Lucas again, but you'll never get a closer look at why the 70s were so important a time in Hollywood, either.  If you're a fan of the time period from a film perspective (and really - how can you not be), this is an essential book.