Hal Ashby's obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar®-winning classics, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and ...
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Hal Ashby's obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar®-winning classics, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg rose to blockbuster stardom in the 1980s, Ashby's uncompromising nature played out as a cautionary tale of art versus commerce.Written by
Excellent look at one of the best directors of the 70's
This film is a welcome tribute to one of the best directors of the New Hollywood era of film-making. Throughout the 70's Hal Ashby was arguably to most consistent American director from this bracket, delivering seven highly regarded movies which still resonate today. There is still a level of elusiveness about the man himself, with very little video footage of him. From this perspective, the film relies on some audio but mainly the contents of his letters, of which he seemed to produce a great deal. What emerges is a man constantly battling his studio bosses but also a committed believer in human rights, very much in tune with his times.
The films themselves are the real draw here however. From the race-relation themes of his debut The Landlord (1970), to his enduringly weird and beautiful cult classic Harald and Maude (1971), to his confrontational expletive-heavy military drama The Last Detail (1973), to the Warren Beatty vehicle Shampoo (1975), to his Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (1975), to his anti-war Vietnam romantic-drama Coming Home (1978), to his prophetic look at an idiot becoming President of the United States in Being There (1979). These are an extraordinary run of movies indeed. Like so many of his 70's peers, the 80's were a difficult time, however, and the four movies he subsequently made in that decade are not nearly so well received or remembered. The documentary benefits hugely from many clips from all his movies, so this is both are winner if you are already familiar with them, or if you are a newcomer seeking recommendations. This is overall, an excellent overview of a low-key man who made timeless cinema.
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