One of the comparatively unsung luminaries of 1970s American cinema receives a very fine tribute in Hal, an in-depth look at director Hal Ashby. Never a household name like Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola or Lucas and without a genuine blockbuster to his credit, the former film editor nonetheless directed seven of the finest and most emblematic films of the New Hollywood Cinema era: The Landlord, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home and Being There. Then it was all over. Digging deep into the archives for rare and revealing material to accompany interviews with many of his collaborators and intimates, filmmaker Amy Scott packs a lot into 90 minutes with this insightful and warm look at an artist whose best work always revealed a heightened social conscience.
Unlike the film school hotshots who emerged from and put their mark on that era, Ashby had already forged a successful career by the time Hollywood swept out the old and brought in the new in the late '60s and early '70s. A Utah native and a Mormon, he had a rough childhood, dropped out of high school and became a pot-smoking bohemian in the late 1940s, around the time most of his eventual New Hollywood cohorts were being born.