Remembering Hal Ashby

Mark Harris’s best-seller Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood pointed to 1967 as the year that the studio system crumbled and a new order emerged while Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls profiled the subsequent rise of the young turk directors in the seventies who changed cinematic conventions with their idiosyncratic films. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Peter Bogdanovich are usually singled out as the prime movers and shakers by film historians of that era while the once high profile Hal Ashby is often underrated and relegated to the sidelines. Hal, Amy Scott’s new documentary on the director, is a welcome homage that attempts to elevate and restore this influential figure to his rightful place in Hollywood history.  Continue reading

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Desert Rats

Nigel Davenport (left ) & Michael Caine in PLAY DIRTY (1969)

Nigel Davenport (left ) & Michael Caine in PLAY DIRTY (1969)

Underrated by critics and ignored by audiences upon its initial release in 1969, Play Dirty, directed by Andre de Toth, has slowly but surely acquired an appreciative fan base over the years thanks to high profile advocates of the film like Martin Scorsese who included it on a long list of guilty pleasures for the May-June 1998 issue of Film Comment. Unfortunately, this World War II drama starring Michael Caine had the misfortune to follow in the wake of Robert Aldrich’s box-office hit, The Dirty Dozen (1967), to which it was often unfairly compared. But, outside of a similar assemble-the-team concept which sends a group of criminals on a suicide mission, the film has very little in common with Aldrich’s blockbuster and there is absolutely no reason to feel any guilt over liking it either.  Continue reading