Such a disappointment. I’d heard this book pimped by so many cinephiles, including the guys on Filmspotting. How could it possibly not live up? Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is Peter Biskind‘s book about the New Hollywood of the late-60s and 70s. It promised to run through everything. All the little details. A journalistic look at how the era came about and eventually faltered. Unfortunately I wasn’t told that the journalism was less New Yorker, more People Magazine.
Sure, half the book is about the creation of those great 70s movies and the directors who made them, but the other half is all about who did what drugs and which directors slept with which women. It’s gossipy drivel and that completely overshadows any good insight into the actual films the books is supposed to be about.
And the gossip isn’t just limited to sex and drugs. Biskind got tons quotes from many of the players involved, but most of the quotes deal with how everyone backstabbed everyone. It’s somewhat interesting, but the amount of space given to this stuff turns it into boring crap. I was totally with the book for the first 100 or so pages, hoping it would dig deeper as it went. It never dug deeper. Biskind just isn’t interested in the substance.
And worst of all is how Biskind tries to draw conclusions about what this particular era in Hollywood meant and how and why it didn’t last. He seems to put a lot of blame on Spielberg and Lucas, as though they were directors who lacked any serious artistic integrity. His comments about the quality of their movies come down to personal opinions and bias, without any serious examination of what actually happened. But then that makes sense. Biskind was clearly more enthralled by all the fucking and snorting of the “auteurs” than he was by the squeaky clean and smart decisions of the people who made the blockbusters. Even with Coppola he feels the need to describe Apocalypse Now as something of a failure because he doesn’t happen to like the third act.
It’s bad criticism. It’s bad journalism. It’s a dumb book and I can’t believe it has come so highly recommended by most people.