Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Useless Film Snob Book Report - Pictures at a Revolution

It's been quite a while since I posted a book review. That hasn't meant I haven't read anything since then; it's just since that I mostly write about film and music, it would be most useful to post on books with similar subjects.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (Mark Harris)
Harris's book is definitely an enjoyable read, well written and well researched. Harris goes in-depth into all aspects of the five films nominated for Best Picture in 1967: Bonnie & Clyde, Doctor Doolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night. The book goes into vigorous details with numerous interviews of the pre-production, production, and results of each film. A lot of the book seems to gravitate towards Bonnie & Clyde and The Graduate, as examples of the new style of filmmaking that would be called the New Hollywood, hold Harris's thesis. He wants to say that these films, by being so different, refreshing, and above all successful, helped usher in a new era in filmmaking away from the colossal roadshow pictures, evidenced here by Doctor Doolittle. The problem is that the book never re-enforces Harris's thesis that strongly. Yes, 1967 may have been the start of the New Hollywood but there's never anything concrete in book that really create a difference between the pictures. All the films are run through the same way and Harris never really goes into much theoretical analysis outside of the how Bonnie & Clyde and The Graduate were handling the issues of violence and sexuality. I'm not saying that he's wrong about his subtitle but the way the book is structured as more of a history than an analysis. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the book; it's still an entertaining read, full of great details of how each film was made. The debacle of Doctor Doolittle could be its own book on the the last creaking throes of the old studio system. The only time this generational shift is really addressed in regards to these films is the Academy Award ceremony itself, as the two middlebrow films, In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner fare just as well as the "newer" films. It's the only time that shows that Hollywood wasn't quite ready for the New Hollywood.

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