Friday, May 25, 2018

Thoughts on Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film, by Peter Biskind

Shortly after reading Peter Biskind's Seeing is Believing and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, and being very impressed with those two books (for quite different reasons, their accomplishments differing), I turned to his history of the independent film boom, Down and Dirty Pictures.

The book, in its journalistic reconstruction of the making of a movement within the film industry rather than close-reading the movies it produced for their social and political content, is much more like Easy Riders than Seeing in its objective, structure and feel. However, I have to admit that I didn't find it nearly so interesting a read as Easy Riders, though I should also that I don't blame Biskind for that. Easy Riders was a memorable read because it simply had a more memorable subject. Even moving past the romanticism and the confusion surrounding it, New Hollywood remains a far more interesting subject than indie film, in part because the confluence of cultural forces was so much more fertile and dynamic (as Biskind himself points out, these guys were products of a far more conservative time, far less conducive to critical thought), the filmmakers more convincing as genuine artists (the ambition, the daring, the bet-it-all-on-my-vision--the guys in the '70s had it, the guys afterward didn't), in part because the best of their films really were great films. (At one point in Down and Dirty Biskind quotes Edward Norton saying that Sex, Lies and Videotape was his generation's The Graduate. I was appalled by that. As one growing up in those same years, my Graduate was the actual The Graduate, my first viewing of which was an experience to which all of the films of the '90s rolled together could not even begin to compare. If anything, I have only felt more confirmed in my opinion since.)

In fact, after the first ninety pages or so, I started skimming. And didn't stop skimming until I got to the end, because I was never tempted to stop skimming and start properly reading again. Which is why this is just a little post and not a proper review such as I wrote of Mr. Biskind's two other books.

That's it, my whole comment on the book.

You thought I was going to say something about Harvey Weinstein, didn't ya?

If you're disappointed that I didn't, well, tough.

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