Monday, January 28, 2013

Hollywood Films of the Seventies

1984, first edition, from Harper & Row
Seth Cagin and Philip Dray
Hollywood Films of the Seventies:  Sex, Drugs, Violence, Rock 'n' Roll and Politics
Original price unknown, purchase price $6.50
Good condition hardcover

As with Hoberman and Rosenbaum's Midnight Movies, I am definitely not the audience for this book, or the movies it covers.  You might think that the two books are mutually exclusive, but in fact some films are in both (and Cult Movies 1 or 2), such as Clockwork Orange.  I find that Cagin and Dray handle violent content in movies, and more particularly the explanations of such directors as Kubrick and Peckinpah, in too unquestioning a manner, without even Rosenbaum and Hoberman's reservations, to say nothing of Danny Peary's consideration.  That Dray and Cagin have a left-wing perspective makes their attitude towards violence even worse, as they fall into the trap of thinking that showing violence is condemning it.  Also, they almost ignore one of the most significant political movements of the 1970s: feminism.  Like "black" movies getting not much more than a paragraph, movies about women and the role of women in mainstream movies are discussed only sporadically.

But then this isn't really a book about the 1970s, or not entirely.  There is in fact much more time spent on the late 1960s, or even the late 1950s, than on the late 1970s.  In fact, 1977 to 1983 is mostly in the Epilogue.  What we have here is another example, like Generation in Motion, of Baby-Boomers who have a very narrow view of what they might as well call The Epigonic Decade.  While Cagin and Dray seem at first to be presenting the 1970s as the time when the concerns of the 1960s found fuller expression on the big screen (thanks to a new generation of film-makers), by 1977 "escapist blockbusters" have triumphed and the dream is over.

Of course, that I spent most of the 1970s watching Disney movies on the big screen and old movies on the little screen probably disqualifies me as an authority, but Hollywood cinema did include the following movies that they don't profile: Harold and Maude (1971), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), Foul Play (1978), and The Muppet Movie (1979).  Any one of these is going to tell you more about the 1970s-- and sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, or even politics-- than the likes of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Rebel without a Cause.  And they're a hell of a lot more entertaining, too.

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