'A Decade Under the Influence' DVD Review **** 062705

The Work = ****
Co-directors Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese created a three part, three hour documentary on 70’s cinema. They collected a bunch of interviews and with a very broad brush paint the picture of 70s cinema starting in the mid 60s and ending in the early 80s. ' A Decade Under the Influence' is a success largely do to the great interviews the two did with filmmaker icons of the day like William Friedkin, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, etc.

Most of the filmmakers that are absent from the interviews are talked about by those that are present. Throughout the film there are stills and film clips interspersed with the interviews. 'A Decade Under the Influence' touches on many key films in the evolution and eventually, downfall of the renegade movement of films in the 70s. It is a glamorized portrait to be sure, largely because it is relying on the filmmakers themselves to shape the narrative.

There is a lot to like here. It is neat to hear filmmakers like Coppola and Eastwood talk about their influences. I loved hearing Dennis Hopper talk about getting to watch John Cassavetes direct a film. He talked about how Cassavetes would just hand the camera to someone if they thought they could make a better shot. The result would be people who had never held a camera before would be filming scenes in his movies.

If there is something glaring that is missed in 'A Decade Under the Influence' it is the discussion of the movement of black filmmakers in cinema. It is only briefly mentioned with an all too short interview with Pam Grier. The eighties may have caused a stop to the wave of new filmmakers that had dominated the seventies but it downright caused a lot of black filmmakers to go without roles. It is a shame that there wasn’t a bit more discussion.

Still the film works and the interviews that it does have are great. I would say that a good companion film that I believe is also from Docurama would be the documentary on black cinema in the seventies called 'Baadasssss Cinema'. There is brief text statement at the end of 'A Decade Under the Influence' acknowledging that there may be filmmakers that were missed in the documentary and they encourage viewers to check them and the ones present in the film out.

As a closing note I need to mention that the film ends on a rather emotional beat. Co director Demme sadly passed away during the production. Coppola gives a heartfelt statement about his passing. Demme was a director that seemed like he might be on the verge of breaking out into a more recognizable status and his passing left behind a very young daughter. An emotional ending to the well made documentary.

DVD = ***

The Look
'A Decade Under the Influence' has a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The interviews and film clips generally look good.

The Sound
The DVD has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It is a good sound mix, all the dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

The Bonus
We get some extended interviews that are nice to see as many of them are about specific films. It’s especially neat because some of the interviews are about films that are available on DVD but have no special features, (such as Paul Schrader talking about 'Hard Core'.) Other than that there are brief text bios for Demme and LaGravenese and a bevy of trailers for other Docurama DVD releases. (Noticeably absent is a trailer for 'A Decade Under the Influence' itself.)

All Together = ****
This is an easy one to recommend. The film has some great interviews about an interesting time in film. Does it miss some things? Yep’, however, it makes up for it buy having some wonderful thoughts and memories from the filmmakers of the day. Recommended.


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