I Saw A Film!

If nothing else has convinced you that psychedelic drugs might be a risky undertaking this sprawling and often goofy representation of an LSD experience, should be enough to establish avoiding the drug.

We watch Peter Fonda attempting to create a commercial, suddenly break up with his lady and then seek some resolve from a friend, Bruce Dern, who is recommending LSD. We meet Dick Miller amidst a pile of psychedelic artwork. Artwork that folks of the time would think of as kitchy but I always find appealing (I’m told that the world we inhabit as children always has a warm place in our hearts). With Mr. Miller we can suspect we’re looking at a particular film workshop, this is a Roger Corman product. Soon we’re also introduced to a young Dennis Hopper, and Jane’s little brother is encouraged to turn off his mind, relax and float downstream.

This is where the film attempts to provide a kind of document of tripping. Of course, we’re given the kaleidoscopic lights and groovy guitar solo (at times also be bop horn solos) so often associated with the mid-sixties tripping wackiness. Soon the images are mixed with “music video” style running about on the beach, sex sequences with lights projected on them, and some downright fairy tale hijinx. There are witches, dwarfs, cloaked horsemen, robes, ropes, chameleons eating bugs, and finally Fonda’s freakout with anxiety. Why’s it always anxiety?

Mike Pollan’s recent book, Changing Your Mind, does an excellent job expressing the visual experiences the psychedelics cause, vibrance, excited inanimate objects, and deep detail. Most of what Pollan describes has little to do with the anxious paranoia – but no doubt these sorts of events aren’t unusual among the casual and unlearned users. Fonda finds himself in a house giving milk to a little girl and fleeing as the man of the house discovers him. Lots of chase sequences showing off Fonda’s ability to really run. He’s got the lean build of a marathoner.

Part of the trip is a stage set that looks remarkably Star Trek like with Dennis Hopper talking about the unity with the ever expanding universe gobbledygook. It’s difficult to take much of it seriously, and the entertainment value wanes as he finds himself fascinated with a laundromat. It’s difficult to imagine a desire to be so fascinated with the mundane, but, it is arguable what actually is the mundane.

It turns out Jack Nicholson wrote the thing, and I’m not sure what parts of it needed writing. There is the final line of Fonda telling his lady friend he loves her. She responds like many ladies love to, “Oh and everyone else.” Fonda agrees. She then suggests he’ll feel differently tomorrow. Fonda then replies that he’ll worry about that tomorrow. The end. The real end is when Timothy Leary was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he decided to accept death as the ultimate counter culture experience, this, of course, would be far in the future from this old film. This thing is free on Prime, and a pretty good hoot.

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