Senior HTF Member
- May 31, 2004
- Agua Verde
- Real Name
- Pike Bishop
Amy Scott's documentary about Hal Ashby is a big deal for the simple fact that it is the only documentary about this wonderful filmmaker. Ashby may not be as celebrated as other 1970s directors but his run of pictures starting with The Landlord in 1970 through Being There in 1979 was just flat out amazing. All beautiful films that featured incredible characters and explored the human condition. I love these films and I think you can stand Hal up next to any of the other greats that emerged in that time period.
I loved this documentary for this reason and also because the 1970s seemed the last great period of American filmmaking. Hal Ashby to me seemed like the key example of a person that made great picture after great picture during the 1970s then just got completely crushed by the changes the industry made focusing on churning out sequels and attempting to create "blockbusters" to mimic the success of Star Wars. A pot smoking oddball like Hal just was not what they wanted to deal with and so his 1980s output turned into a series of difficult situations, fights, and compromised films.
Obviously today the type of pictures that he made would all be Netflix fodder as nobody wants well written, thoughtful pictures made for grown-ups in cinemas now. Maybe around awards season but they no longer are thought of as "prestige" pictures anymore...those are now the sequels, superheroes, and franchise films, in other words, the stuff that makes bank.
It would have been great if Scott could have got Jack Nicholson to talk about Hal but it seems Nicholson does not much care for doing interviews. Norman Jewison is great to hear from though and quite emotional about his old friend. I highly recommend you check this one out and probably follow it up by watching some of Ashby's pictures. I happened to double feature this one night with King Cohen, the documentary about filmmaker Larry Cohen and wow, did that turn into a massive night of nostalgia for a type of filmmaking that has been made nearly extinct.
The Blu-ray features some extras with extended interviews with some of the participants and is well worth purchasing if you are a fan of Ashby, want to find out more about him, or love that era of the 1970s when there was this amazing passion for the art form not just a hunger to stuff bank accounts full of cash. Also, The Landlord has recently been released by Kino on Blu-ray and would make a fine film to watch after checking out this documentary. All my thumbs are up for this one!