I know that Biskind’s Down And Dirty Pictures is not supposed to be an academic piece*. But should he really set his stall out quite so clearly in the foreword (not even the Introduction)? In his summary of 90’s independent films he starts off by saying that they are nowhere near as interesting as seventies Hollywood (for which read my other book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls). Then he explains that due to giving him a hostile interview in 1991, Robert Redford – one of the two focuses of the book, would not give him an interview (oh and by the way Redford is a vain, narcissistic, poor manager of people who is insecure about his own intelligence, skill as a film-maker and RIGHTLY SO”). Oh Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax: he mentions how fat they are, what bullies they are and that even if plenty of people did not say nasty things about them (which they do), anyone who said anything nice almost certainly only did so out of fear.

Then he gets into the well researched and nicely drawn narrative parts where he tries to prove all the assertions he has boldly stated as fact IN HIS FOREWORD. Now that’s journalism.

It is a rollicking read of course, in the style of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – with many of the faults of that book. In particular his habit of telling stories about the production of one particular film at a time constantly stretches and overlaps his timeline so that what appears to be a linear narrative is actually a lot more complicated. And as is the way witha ny interview led book, those who give good interview come out of it the best. With the exception of Ben Affleck**. Also being too close in time, and clearly not overly caring for many of the movies he is talking about, leaves Biskind in the odd situation of championing lousy movies JUST BECAUSE Miramax canned them. The drink and drugs of ERRB is replaced by swearing, Big Macs and endless talks about producer credits. It is to Biskind’s credit that he can make all the contract negotiations as interesting as Dennis Hopper going on a bender, but you have to wonder how much is just for the story.

*This will not stop it being quoted and referenced constantly in every single film students essays about 1990’s US film, to the extent that despite its flagrent prejudices it might already be taken as a canonical work becoz it is fun to read.

**But then the more Ben Affleck breathes, the less well he comes out of it unfortunately. A walking definition of bad karma.