Documentary review: A Decade Under the Influence (2003)

A documentary which also works as an advertisement or appetizer for everything 70s. I loved the way they had many of the talented directors and actors of the time talking nostalgically and energetically in interviews clips about what the 70s movies meant to them, and how they perceived society, and so on.

An insightful feature length documentary. You can tell it was produced by the independent film channel, a bunch of lesser known indie films are mentioned or discussed. So many in fact I felt I needed to stop and write them down every 10 minutes! An example was Scorsese's Alice doesn't live here anymore (1974), which I subsequently watched, and liked.

The only thing missing for me maybe is for a distinction between what were the best and worst 70s films, here they seem to praise everything, which was different and shocking. They have directors talking about their most acclaimed work, and highlighting some key scenes from some of the movies, which is interesting.

An unusual perspective I thought was how stars from the 70s era were often not so good-looking, anybody could become a movie star. The story became the focus, looks were less important, as opposed to the contract based stars of the past. It was a time of rebellion, of questioning every accepted idea. Moviegoers were turning their backs on tired studio formulas, and wanted to watch stories they could relate to in their own lives.

I’ve watched the other 70s documentary, Easy riders Raging bulls (2003), but thought ‘A Decade Under the Influence’ had the most to offer. Although people seem to disagree, which of the two is best. I wouldn't suggest watching both, unless you are using it for educational reasons, as they cover a lot of the same ground.

If you are expecting to hear interviews of Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, and Steven Spielberg you will be disappointed, but a lot of other famous directors and actors are on board.

I got the feeling the piece was a little biased and trying to say there are not nearly as many talented, groundbreaking directors making their mark in the 2000s, and this I agree with to a certain extent. Although not all the stuff the 70s directors touched turned to gold, and likewise can be said about any generation. There is always good and bad, in all eras of film.

This documentary is very relatable today, I think studio executives could learn a thing or two here about giving filmmakers more creative freedom and not just thinking profit. Who knows, maybe the next audience rebellion has already started? It's hard to know if history will repeat itself and we will ever see another decade like the 70s. It would be great, if it did happen ( :

Anyway, well worth your time and enjoyable whether you are already an admirer of 70s films or a newcomer to the scene.

Readers, what are your favourite movies of the 70s ?




  1. I think you just got your first lesson on what my first film book called the Hollywood Renaissance. The reason they gave young directors so much freedom was because it made money back then. Then they figured out the blockbuster system.

    Definitely see the film the title is drawn from: Cassavetes' A Woman Under The Influence. You should see some of the great myth busting films of the 1970's like McCabe And Mrs. Miller. Pakula's The Parallax View is a personal favorite. Here's a few more from the 70's: Gimmie Shelter, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Straw Dogs, Superfly, The Sting, The Long Goodbye, Network, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, ... I really should make a list like everyone keeps suggesting.

  2. I really like the doc a lot. Even if it didn't introduce me to anything I didn't already know about, it's still nice to see Julie Christie and Bruce Dern and William Friedkin and Dennis Hopper and hear them talk about all the important history that they were a part of. My biggest complaint, I think, was that it jumped around in time too much. They'd be talking about a movie that came out in '71, and then show a clip from another movie that came out in '77 or whenever. I wish it'd paid closer attention to chronology.

    Warren Beatty described the late 60's/70's as the time "when the inmates took over the asylum". I always liked that expression for the kind of indie revolution that happened.

  3. @Jump_Raven : Yep, good point, they said films such as Easy rider and so on made money, so that's why more such films were made.

    Thanks for the 70s recommendations, some of those I have been meaning to check out like The Parallax View , and The Long Goodbye. Straw dogs, network, and the sting I've seen. If you want to see some of my 70s film recommendations, do a CTRL+F search on: 197

  4. @Kyle : I agree, great doc. Would be interesting if they made a doc for every decade of film!

    I didn't notice it jumped around, but I did feel it was pretty dense. Good quote at the end there. Thanks for stopping by.


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