Of Vice and Men

In Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, immature auteurs take over Hollywood -- until the empire strikes back

All this of course is one viewer's opinion; certainly the conventional wisdom is at one with the author. But a film's ultimate quality really has nothing to do with its popularity with either the critics or the public on its first release. For Biskind, however, like the Premiere editor he once was, those are his criteria for success. He never ventures an opinion outside of that mainstream.

But let's use Biskind to turn this argument around. If the post-1980 films of these men aren't that bad, then are their 1970s films that good? The best thing about Easy Riders, Raging Bulls may be the hard new look it encourages at such landmarks as Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, The Conversation, Days of Heaven, and all the others. If a generation yet to come is to create a New Hollywood that lasts, it is films like these, for all the madness of their makers, that they will build on. To be sure, today's young filmmakers acknowledge the recent past; some would say someone like Quentin Tarantino does it almost too avidly. And today's much cannier studio conglomerates efficiently co-opt sprouting countercultures; their fair-haired boys are not the odd mad genius but rather the squeaky-clean Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Will we need to re-experience a new era of national trauma -- and suffer more crash-and-burnout auteurs -- to re-create the conditions that made the 1970s so interesting?

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