NEW YORK – There are probably two great periods in American film - the year 1939 (when "Gone with the Wind," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Dark Victory" all came out) and the entire 1970s.
Tonight IFC begins a three-part series on movies from the '70s, what made them so great and why they ain't making them the way they used to.
OK, in two paragraphs, I've done the three things I hoped never to do: sound like a big, movie windbag, use the word "film" when "movie" will do and complain that it used to be better than it is now.
That said, I only take back the "film" part.
The '70s did produce the greatest movies since 1939 and, incredibly, the best ones were often done by people in their 20s or early 30s with actors of the same age.
Those same people, now in their 50s and 60s appear in this documentary made by Richard LaGravenese and the late Ted Demme.
Among them, Francis Ford Coppola (search) ("The Godfather," "Apocalypse Now"), Martin Scorsese (search) ("Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets," "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"), Dennis Hopper ("Easy Rider"), Milos Foreman ("One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"), Sydney Pollack (search) ("They Shoot Horses Don't They"), Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon") and, of course, Robert Altman ("M*A*S*H") Peter Bogdanovich (search) ("The Last Picture Show") and the great William Friedkin ("The French Connection" and "The Exorcist").
Notice they're all men and all white?
It would take another decade or so before women were off their backs and in back of the camera and African-Americans had escaped blacksploitation movies.
But that's another story.
The women and one of two blacks interviewed here are all actresses who played a huge part in the movies of the time (Ellen Burstyn and Pam Grier).
The directors interviewed talk about what it was like to change the whole system - even though at the time they had no understanding that they weren't qualified to do it.
The world had changed in the '70s and old Hollywood was going broke making the same old, tired stuff when all these hot-shot, dope-smoking loonies with cameras came along.
The studios had not understood that you could make movies in the streets instead of building sets to look like streets until these renegades - under the direction of wild-man, moviemaker Roger Corman, king of the "B" movies, came along.
What's obviously and glaringly missing here, however, are interviews with Woody Allen (search) (though he's mentioned), Steven Spielberg (search) (also mentioned), and producer Bob Evans ("Rosemary's Baby," both "Godfather" pictures, "Goodbye Columbus") who isn't mentioned.
Watch it if you really, really like movies. Since I've now become a big movie windbag myself, I better quit while I still have breath.