A Decade Under the Influence (2003)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Biographies-Crew-Filmmakers
Interviews-Cast-Various
Trailer-Jack Kerouac - King Of The Beats, Cinema Paradiso
Trailer-Jules And Jim, Pandora's Box
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 105:18 (Case: 108)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ted Demme
Richard LaGranvanese
Studio
Distributor
Independent Film Ch
Madman Entertainment
Starring Robert Altman
John G. Avildsen
Peter Bogdanovich
Ellen Burstyn
John Calley
John Cassavetes
Julie Christie
Francis Ford Coppola
Roger Corman
Bruce Dern
Peter Fonda
Milos Forman
William Friedkin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Fonfara
Danny Weis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The 1970s were one of the most interesting eras in the history of American cinema. Indeed, while the number of people going to the cinema in the US was at its lowest since World War II, and the actual number of films produced during the decade was among the lowest ever, the 70s were really a milestone for the whole industry. The decade produced a swag of truly memorable films that have stood the test of time and become icons of American culture still revered to this day. Consider the classics of the decade such as The Godfather, Easy Rider, The Exorcist, The Sting, Jaws, American Graffiti, Badlands, Dirty Harry, Shampoo, and Rocky to name but just a handful of the truly memorable 70s films.

    With the end of the psychedelic 1960s and the growing unrest with military conflicts, government interference, and a general mistrust of all things institutional, the 1970s began with many people speaking out and challenging the very fabric of society. Protests about the war in Vietnam dominated the large part of the first half of the decade, while the women's liberation movement gained even more impetus during the early years of the 1970s. Fuelled by radical thinking from many of the university campuses around the country, there was a strong counter-culture movement growing. This new way of looking at things, tossing out old, outdated and often prehistoric ideas about life in general and specifically the art of filmmaking saw a new wave of directors, writers, and actors challenging the very way film was made. It was also a decade sandwiched between the last of the old-style "studio system" of contracted stars and big-screen epics of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and the now all-too-familiar mass-produced blockbuster style of film of the 80s and 90s, complete with tie-in merchandising deals more often controlled by accountants than directors.

    A Decade Under The Influence is a documentary that pays homage to the very best of what the 1970s had to offer in American cinema. Directed by the late Ted Demme (this was his last film before his untimely death at age 38 in 2003) and Richard LaGranvanese it is a detailed look at what is widely regarded as the watershed decade for American film.

    It should be noted first-up that the version we get here in Region 4 is the theatrical version and not the full three-part version that was screened on the Independent Film Channel in the United States. As a result we are missing the programme presented as a three-part series and more specifically around 45 minutes of material.

    What we do get is still filled with interviews with many of the big players of the decade, including directors and stars of the calibre of Francis Coppola, Dennis Hopper, William Friedkin, Roy Scheider, Martin Scorsese, Julie Christie, and Peter Bogdanovich. The early influences of Asian and European cinema and the greats of the genre such as Kurosawa, Antonioni, Rossellini, and Fellini are discussed. The early work of hugely influential independent filmmaker John Cassavetes (Faces, Shadows) is also discussed in some length and the impact these influential directors had on the young guns in both the directing and acting stakes.

    Footage from many of the classic films of the era is shown. We see highlights from Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show, Shampoo, The French Connection, The Exorcist, and The Deer Hunter and a discussion of just why these films were unlike anything that had come before them.

    It's a shame we don't get the full three hour version that is offered in region 1, and there are a great many films that are either glossed over quickly or completely ignored (the directors do mention this in the credits and apologise for not being able to cover everything). But anyone with even a passing interest in the history of cinema or a desire to learn more about a very special decade of American film could do worse than check this out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Unlike the Region 1 counterpart, the Region 4 disc does feature an anamorphic transfer. This one is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and as stated is 16x9 enhanced.

    Much of this documentary is taken up with relatively new interviews with the various directors and stars. It is all of excellent quality with very sharp and detailed images and virtually no grain or other artefacts present. The images taken from the various films discussed are all letterboxed to their original aspect ratios and are in as good a condition as can be expected. Some are excellent, while others are quite dated looking with grain, grime, and many many artefacts present.

    Colours are well rendered and saturated in the new material while the older footage suffers from the usual problems and varies greatly in quality.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts, but as mentioned above, there are plenty of artefacts in some of the older source material.

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a dual layered disc with the break occurring at 76:37. It is basically invisible.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Somewhat surprisingly there is only one audio option available here, this being a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack, but being a predominantly talking head documentary, the use of any other sort of soundtrack would probably have been a waste. As a result this is a fairly nondescript soundtrack that despite being only two channel still effortlessly performs the required job.

    The dialogue which is the mainstay of the programme is extremely prominent and well placed in the soundtrack.

    There is only a little music present and it suits the on-screen action well.

    There is no surround or subwoofer use.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Biographies-Crew

    Four pages of static text giving a brief overview of the careers of directors Richard Lagravenese and Ted Demme.

Interviews-Cast

    This is an additional 33:22 minutes of interview footage with people involved such as Robert Altman, Francis Coppola, William Friedkin, and Peter Bogdanovich. From what I can determine this additional footage is the same extra that is found on the Region 1 disc and does not contain any of the extended version material.

Trailers

    Bonus trailers for four other Umbrella titles. Included here are Jack Kerouac - King Of Beats, Cinema Paradiso, Jules and Jim, and Pandora's Box.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 title is quite different to the local release. The most obvious difference is the version of the film which is contained on the disc. The Region 1 title scores the full three-part documentary as it was screened on the Independent Film Channel. The programme was expanded into three episodes running for a little over 150 minutes. We obviously get the theatrical run cut down version which runs for just 105 minutes. The one bonus is that the Region 4 disc features a transfer that is 16x9 enhanced.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

Summary

    A Decade Under The Influence is an important look at an important era of American filmmaking. While this cut-down version is certainly not the preferred option it still offers plenty of information to enlighten and inform.

    The video and audio are acceptable for the style of presentation.

    The extras are quite limited, though the inclusion of some 33 minutes of additional interview material is a welcome bonus.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, March 19, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Comments (Add)
Very interesting doco. - TurkeyTom