25 October 2014
Review: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've been really interested and fascinated with the history of cinema for some time. There's a lot of fascinating pieces to the overall history, although I find the Hays Code-era wranglings to be almost as interesting as the creation of the classic films themselves.
What if I told you there was a book that combined both?
Pictures at a Revolution covers the time in American movies surrounding the creation of five classic films that ended up being nominated for Best Picture in 1967, including Bonnie and Clyde, Look Who's Coming to Dinner, and The Graduate. The films are put up against the social and cultural situations of the time, the struggle of American filmmakers to stay relevant with the censorship and Code issues of the day being ignored by European filmmakers, and the changing landscape of films and their audiences overall.
It's a really fascinating narrative. The book balances out a lot of the topics really well, doesn't dwell too long on any specific aspects, and is ultimately pretty straightforward about some of the issues some movies (most notably Doctor Doolittle in the context of the lineage it came from). It's long, but doesn't feel long, as the details all feel relevant. Harris also got a good deal of input directly from people involved with the film, giving a lot of inside knowledge I wouldn't have expected.
Overall, I think this is ultimately a must-read for film enthusiasts as well as cultural history buffs. There's a lot here for everyone, and it's a book I'm glad I took the time to read.
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