"STONE: The Controversies, Excesses, and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker" by James Riordan

"STONE: The Controversies, Excesses, and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker"

Email this review


Despite its title, the aging enfant terrible of America takes few hits from the friendly fire of this overly authorized biography. In order to secure Stone's cooperation, Riordan (coauthor, Break on Through, 1991, etc.) allowed the filmmaker to both see and edit his quotes. Perhaps it isn't just Stone style paranoia, then, that gives the reader the feeling that this book isn't the full story. Riordan airs most of the negatives--Stone's compulsive womanizing, years of drug abuse, his fierce unpleasantness and hyperbole--but invariably excuses or diminishes them with an apologist's zeal. There is also a d‚j… vu quality to much of the material, a didn't-I-read-that-somewhere-in-a-magazine feeling. Riordan does do a credible job of illuminating Stone's directorial methods as well as his many driving paradoxes. Here is a bacchanalian ""wild man"" who, nonetheless, runs his sets with boot-camp precision, invariably bringing his films in on time and on budget. Stone may also regularly attack the establishment, yet his sensibilities haven't prevented him from working deep within the Hollywood studio system (and making a fortune). Riordan ties these contradictions to Stone's privileged but miserable upbringing and his military service in Vietnam. Certainly, Stone is convinced he has something important to say. And so, like Stanley Kramer in the '50s, he makes ""message films""--impassioned attempts to grapple with big issues. But Stone is far superior to Kramer in his visceral command of film language. As actress Joan Chen put it, ""Though he can be very strong, and you feel like he's hitting you over the head with what he wants to convey, he doesn't lose his sense of poetry."" Long after the message is outdated, it will be this poetry that keeps Stone's films fresh and alive. Riordan's biography has few such saving graces.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Hyperion