film shop, london n16 logo

Magic Trip

Title: 
Magic Trip
Year: 
2011
Film Format: 
dvd
Director: 
Alex Gibney & Alison Ellwood
Language: 
English
Country: 
United States
Actors: 
Ken Kesey
Film Reviews: 

The subject of Magic Trip is the LSD-powered, cross-country road movie orchestrated by novelist Ken Kesey in the summer of '64. More than a footnote but less than a chapter in American cultural history, the voyage taken by a psychedelic, Day-Glo-painted school bus filled with Kesey's Merry Prankster pals and driven by Beat Generation ego-ideal Neal Cassady was part madcap social experiment and part improvised reality show—a template for the antic hippie-ism that would enliven the remainder of the decade…Kesey (a frustrated Hollywood actor, according to his friend and fellow novelist Robert Stone) had great hopes for the movie created, per Wolfe, "under conditions of total spontaneity barreling through the heartlands of America, recording all now, in the moment." Defying intelligible montage, excerpts from this footage have surfaced several times over the decades; now the prolific Alex Gibney (Enron, Client 9), working with editor Alison Ellwood, has taken the material—digitally improved and at times painstakingly near-synchronized to the original sound—as the basis for an oral history. Surviving Pranksters are interviewed; Kesey is heard reminiscing with Terry Gross…we see the Pranksters off the road and ripped on acid, skinny-dipping in the muck, inventing tie-dye (you are there!), and tootling their instruments kindergarten-style. It's one thing to read about a driver who, according to Stone, "could roll a joint while backing a 1937 Packard onto the lip of the Grand Canyon"; it's another to watch motor-mouthed Cassady in action, spinning the wheel while ignoring the road. As vivid as Wolfe's descriptions are, it's astonishing to see the Prankster bus, festooned with American flags and a banner reading, "A Vote for Barry Is a Vote for Fun," drive backward through Phoenix…What it lacks, perhaps unavoidably, is a sense of the cosmic Now; the movie recovers, without exactly illuminating, a "long, strange trip" that seems all the stranger as it recedes into the past.
[J Hoberman, Village Voice]

Date Arrival: 
15 December 2011

No comments

Please register or sign in to post a comment.