Like oxygen rushing into a vacuum, like high pressure water filling a void, the space evacuated by the heads of the Hollywood studio system and the directors they relied on to perpetuate the mythology of the American dream - the cinematic opiate of the masses - a new breed of director came to the forefront of Hollywood in the '70s. And they brought a new kind of filmmaking with them.
Informed by the French New Wave, their mobility and liberation of the camera, the rejection of sets in favor of gritty locations and the use of a frenetic editing style that became the driving sledge hammer heartbeat of the narrative, individuals like Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanavitch, and Warren Beatty – yes, Warren Beatty - unleashed a new kind of screen hero in the 1970s.
An era of social unrest stemming from daily protest against the Vietnam War, Watergate and the massive collective distrust of government and authority – not unlike the current Trump era – gave birth to the ultimate screen rebel with a cause, the ‘anti-hero’. Equally informed by the existential writing of Camus and the prison riots in Attica and harkening back to the era of social protest expressed by John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, the anti-hero could take the form of a bank robber as in Dog Day Afternoon, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Bonnie & Clyde, a government official or news reporter gone rogue as in Three Days of the Condor or Network, a deranged war veteran as in Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter or even a philandering sex-addicted hairdresser as in Shampoo.