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RYAN GILBEY ib “orb 11111Pri me Nashville, laws, Star Wars and beyond Cover of the British edition Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Samuel Fuller, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Penn, D. A. Pennebaker, Nicholas Ray, and Andy Warhol had already started the revolution without them. Gilbey traces how the careers of three of his directors Coppola, Demme, and Scorseseevolved out of apprenticeship to Roger Corman, the schlockmeister of quick, cheap genre flicks. So, especially in the 1970s, his disciples’ creativity \(e.g., The Godfather, Caged Heat, and Boxcar Bertha, respecventing the language of cinema. Is it more radical to write a 15-line sonnet than free verse? De Palma is a cunning manipulator of audience expectations, but it is hard to think of the man who extended the Hitchcock franchise by directing Sisters, Obsession, and Carrie as leading an insurrection. Allen’s first success at not merely recording shtick but conceiving work cinematically, Annie Hall, was an artistic breakthrough for him personally, but one has to wait another decade, for Zelig The Purple Rose of Cairo exploring the medium in genuinely innovative ways. Kubrick’s most revolutionary films, Spartacus Lolita Strangelove 2001: A Space Odyssey A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, during the 1970s, after abandoning the United States for England, and is an odd choice as icon for American filmmaking in that decade. Malick also made only twoextraordinaryfilms during the 1970s, Badlands and Days of Heaven, and if they heralded a new direction in American cinema, it is one that Malick himself, unproductive until 1998, when he bungled The Thin Red Line, failed to follow. Altman can hardly be blamed for the fact that crosscutting among multiple narratives has hardened into a cliche, evenand especiallyin his own films. Several of Gilbey’s directors created honorable and inventive work \(Eyes after the ’70s, but anyone seeking the spirit of Easy Rider has to wait 20 years, until Sundance and the indie movement. Nor does Gilbey’s epithet for Lucas, “an accountant with a camera,”do much to reinforce his thesis that he and his generational cohort revolutionized American film. Gilbey himself portrays Lucas as more entrepreneur than artiste, and it is fitting that after the 1970s Lucas lost interest in directing and, retreating to his Skywalker Ranch, concentrated on packaging projects for others to carry out. Lucas’s Star Wars Spielberg’s Jaws heavily hyped event. The ingenious, lavish special effects that they made a prerequisite for “major” motion pictures have less in common with the revolutionary designs of Bauhaus architects than with the fascist structures of Albert Speer. Feature releases are certainly marketed and exhibited differently now than they were before the generation of 1970 made its mark. But only corporate minions, not cinematic sans-culottes, would have fought to establish a rigid system in which success is defined by the opening weekend’s gross and sought through formulas and sequels. Most of Gilbey’s directors were faithful servants of the consumer culture that was spawning the new shopping-center multiplexes of the 1970s. Gilbey’s hyperbolic description of cinema, as “this most fluid and democratic of art forms,” ignores jazz, the music of the underclass, and poetry, available to anyone with a pencil and a scrap of paper. A mass audience does not in itself make either Star Wars or Nazi oratory an instrument of democracy. “My romantic idea is to be part of an American New Wave,” Gilbey quotes Coppola as saying in 1972. Not only did American cinema of the 1970s not succeed in fostering a bold new movement of defiant experimentation, but it choked the last breaths of the French Nouvelle Vague and snuffed out independent film elsewhere in the world. The entrepreneurial genius of Lucas and others has created global hegemony for Lethal Weapon, Spider-Man, Terminator, and other expensive Hollywood toys. Some might call that revolution; I call it catastrophe. The history of American film in the 1970s is not just the familiar tale of talented young Turks morphing into aging jerks; it is their failure to be anything but janissaries in the first place. Steven G. Kellman teaches comparative literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His most recent book, as editor, is Switching Languages: Translingual Writers Reflect on Their Craft 714103 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25