review for A Decade Under the Influence on AllMovie

A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
by Elbert Ventura review

This unremarkable documentary is certainly impelled by the right intentions, but the final product is curiously devoid of the spirit of critical inquiry and stylistic exploration that animated the best movies of the era it covers. Charting the rise and fall of what critics consider the last golden age of American film, Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme generously sprinkle their chronicle with clips from the usual suspects, like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Godfather, and Taxi Driver. Interspersed throughout are interviews with prominent filmmakers and actors of the period (Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Jon Voight), none of whom are eager to disturb the project's air of idolatry and self-congratulation. Conspicuously missing are Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two titans of the period who also brought the heyday to an end by ushering in a new era of commercial blockbuster filmmaking. Part of the continuing mythologizing of the 1960s and '70s as the last great period of American cinema, A Decade Under the Influence's uncritical rehashing serves its subject poorly by refusing to engage its shortcomings and contradictions -- certainly part of what made the films of the period so alive and trenchant. As it is, the film is not much more than a facile survey of 1960s and '70s Hollywood, perhaps a useful introduction for novices, but of little value to those interested in a serious interrogation of American cinema.