Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind - review by Tom Fleming

Tom Fleming

Who Needs Hollywood?

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

By

Bloomsbury 546pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

HARVEY WEINSTEIN WAS not entirely happy about this book being written; he even offered the author, Peter Biskind, a contract with Miramax Books to write something else. Biskind declined, thankfully, and, as one might expect, Weinstein's antics as co-chairman of Miramax provide the most entertaining and informative parts of own and Dirty Pictures; it is worth reading the book for him alone.

In 1979, Harvey and Bobby Weinstein, two brothers from Queens, took their tiny film company down from Buffalo to New York City, Miramax - named after their parents, Miriam and Max - began by honing in on the stuff that no one else would touch: foreign-language films, usually with a pornographic element to attract audiences (Goodbye Emmanuelle, for instance) and concert films. The brothers had an eye for talent, a love of profit not entirely distinct from avarice, and outstanding negotiating acumen.

It was also in 1979 that Robert Redford set up the Sundance Institute (named after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Major studios at the time were enraptured with profit margins, and young film-makers had little or no chance of gaining a footing in an industry overly reliant on sequels and high-concept trash (Star Trek:

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