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Jun

16

2007

Read Recently: "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film" by Peter Biskind

Downanddirty

Title: "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film"

Author: Peter Biskind.

Synopsis: Book length history of the modern independent film movement, beginning at the mid-80s foundings of the Sundance Film Insitute and Miramax Films.

Backstory: Picked up at a Green Apple warehouse sale earlier this year. The period Biskind covers picks up where my teenage crush on independent film (Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles) leaves off. Also stuck me as a sequel to John Pierson's Spikes, Mikes, Slackers and Dykes which I enjoyed.

Notes: Brisk, exhaustive, insidery. Biskind doesn't hide what he's thinking and jabs at his subjects with a stick in trying to get their essence to leak out. It's an effective strategy for powerful men used to being either coddled or screamed at from the margins by the press. You can argue (and I do) that his agression arrives at fairness. It also makes you never want to work in the movie business, independent or otherwise.

Verdict: I learned more than perhaps I wanted to reading this book as now, every romantic idea I've ever had about independent film has been ground to dust. Yes, there are committed directors, even producers like Christine Vachon who do it because they love movies and live to bring good ones to life. But the level of shit one must go through to make that happen makes the whole enterprise stink. To those committed, it's probably just an occupational hazard. Me, I'll stay a fan.

Biskind tells a great story propped up by reporting as thorough as Gay Talese. In places he sounds gossipy rather than informative and seems a little too pleased with smacking Robert Redford and Harvey Weinsten about the knuckles (he views them both as struggles between egomania and pathological insecurity, a deadly blend when you throw money and power in too). I

f you love movies, this book is nine course meal you eat ravenously but feel sick afterward. I'm glad I visited but I won't be coming back.

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