Tag Archives: Psychedelic

CAPSULE: HALLUCINATION GENERATION (1966)

AKA Hallucination

DIRECTED BY: Edward Mann

FEATURING: George Montgomery, Danny Steinmann, Tom Baker, Renate Kasché

PLOT: A young man becomes embroiled with beatniks, drugs, and…  murder!

Still from Hallucination Generation (1966)

COMMENTS: Hallucination Generation is a cautionary tale about the dangers of vacationing in Ibiza, doing free drugs, and falling in love. This is not your typical ‘60s scare-tactic film, though. For one thing, it’s full of beatniks, not hippies. For another, the first (and only) freak-out doesn’t start until the halfway mark, meaning writer/director Edward Mann is either bad at exploitation or he’s trying to make a real movie here.

Danny Steinmann, who would later helm the likes of Savage Streets (1984) and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985), plays our lead, William Williams. Bill Williams goes to Ibiza on vacation and falls in with a group of layabouts who follow Timothy Leary-esque guru Eric (George Montgomery). It’s all bikini babes and smoking pot out of two-foot-long pipes, until Bill falls in love, immediately gets married, and is cut off by his wealthy family. After determining that his terrible poetry isn’t going to support him and his new wife, instead of getting a job, Bill flees back to Eric’s, solo.

As the drug-pushing guru, George Montgomery may be the best part of this movie (besides the psychedelic special effects). He was well known for his chiseled good looks and his work in dozens of Westerns, even guest starring on “Bonanza” the same year Hallucination Generation came out. Sinking his teeth into something different, Montgomery goes for it here. The “enlightened” Eric is mean to his son and cheats on his wife, spouts ridiculous wisdom, and he hatches a plan for Bill to steal from a timid old man in Barcelona.

Finally, some LSD! Eric uses it to brainwash Bill into agreeing with his plan. (Drugs are bad, kids!) In this early attempt to represent an acid trip on film, photographer Paul Radkai and editor Fima Noveck are constrained only by the technology at hand: quick cuts, loose focus, a gun turning into an animated bat, color swirls, painted faces, fractals, rats, more animation, naked women, masks, more swirling colors.

Two versions of Hallucination Generation are included on Blu-ray: one is black and white, the other is tinted pink (although distributor Diabolik calls it “sepia”). The pink one has the trip effects in color.

As far as cautionary tales go, Bill’s dialogue while dosed doesn’t seem well-crafted to warn people away from the drug: “Don’t want to go too far in, I would get to like myself.” “Why question? It’s enough just to be.” Of course, he’s also yelling, “It’s bad!” between statements of self-transformation, which is pretty convincing.

Still from Hallucination Generation (1966)

There’s a botched robbery, a murder, a weird pick-up, and the climax has fantastic funky architecture and giant sculpture. But really, the whole second half of the movie feels tacked on and too long. There are fun details, like, where did the dog on the bed come from? Or where will Bill’s wife’s accent be from in this scene?

Hallucination Generation has pacing problems, acting problems, and equipment problems (e.g., unintentional shaky cam). But it’s also a time capsule, a pre-hippie bad-beard-beatnik psychedelic freak-out-in-Ibiza time capsule. And for a certain kind of viewer, it is right up their dark, prostitute-filled, Barcelonan alley.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…this is the type of boring flick that could give illegal psychedelic drugs a bad name! Fun for the tolerant Acid Flick completist though.”–Steven Puchalski, “Shock Cinema”

CAPSULE: THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (1968)

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DIRECTED BY: Jack Cardiff

FEATURING: , Alain Delon, Roger Mutton, Marius Goring

PLOT: The newly married Rebecca (Marianne Faithfull) absconds from her marriage bed and rides her motorcycle to meet her lover.

Still from Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)

COMMENTS: Rated X and released in 1968, The Girl on a Motorcycle wants to be a lot of things: erotic, trippy, rebellious, and philosophical, as well as a sex kitten vehicle for pop star Marianne Faithfull. But most of all, it wants to be a motorcycle movie about free love. Complicating matters, it’s also about S&M.

Girl was adapted, shot, and directed by Jack Cardiff, the foremost British cinematographer of the day. Cardiff used inventive (at the time) methods to shoot said girl on said motorcycle: rear projection, bike strapped to a flatbed, and, for mid-to-long shots, using professional motorcyclist Bill Ivy as a stand in. None of these are very convincing though, which is unfortunate since great swaths of the movie focus on Rebecca (Marianne Faithfull) on her bike while we hear her thoughts in voiceover.

The content of the voiceover doesn’t help the movie’s cause much either. Most of it is Rebecca pining ecstatically for her lover. Other parts seem like outright pandering to the youth, e.g., “Rebellion is the only thing that keeps you alive.”

This voiceover track plays while newlywed Rebecca rides through the French countryside clad only in a leather catsuit (hence the name of the American release, Naked Under Leather). Her motorcycle was a wedding gift from her lover, Daniel (Alain Delon). During this extended ride—which in reality would only take a couple of hours—she has plenty of time to ruminate about how square her husband is, how superior free love is, how marriage will soon be a thing of the past, and how great a lover Daniel is. Oh, and how much she loves her motorcycle. (Loves like Titane loves that Cadillac Coupe DeVille.)

Ostensibly, the ride is to take her to Daniel, a pretentious philosophy professor who treats her poorly and at times violently. But a lot happens along the way, including a psychedelic dream sequence, a psychedelic road trip montage, and a few psychedelic sex scenes.

During one stop along the road to writhe in grass, Rebecca is passed and leered at by a military convoy, which leads her to rant about how joining the military proves you hate your own freedom and likely have never had sex and probably can’t. This is a weird and jarring separation from the theme of the movie and sticks out as another attempt to pander to the youth of the day.

Other scenes also stand out as odd. In the very beginning there is a dream sequence in which Rebecca and Daniel are psychedelically going at it but are abruptly interrupted by clown faces. The husband plays cello in the center ring of a circus while Rebecca stands balanced on a moving motorcycle and Daniel, the ringleader, whips pieces of her one-piece leather suit off of her.

Another odd scene shows Rebecca contemplating a gray, straight-lined gas station. She’s complaining about it as a symbol of a society with no freedom (we get it already!) when an attendant in a bright orange jumpsuit comes out. At the sight of him, she freaks out—mouth open, trembling—and drives away.

Let’s not forget the post-coital motocross highlight reel.

Sadomasochism is never overtly mentioned, but Rebecca is choked and whipped and flogged with roses. Late in the movie, she realizes what she has with Daniel is not free love. She is attached to him and loves the control he exerts over her.

After sitting in a German café weighing her husband—a kind man who loves her but is boring—against Daniel—a cold man who doesn’t love her but is exciting—she chooses Daniel again. Riding off in an ecstatic state (facilitated by the vibrations of her motorcycle), the inevitable happens—inevitable in any ‘60s film about free love and motorcycles: a fiery crash. Less predictable is the helicopter pullback from the crash, at least a year before Easy Rider.

What makes this film truly unique is its audacity in continuously showing Faithfull over-emoting on a bike she isn’t riding. Nevertheless, as a vehicle to turn her into a sex symbol, it worked. Full-frontal nudity will do that.

Girl isn’t a good movie, but for viewers who appreciate kitschy ‘60s exploitation, it’s not a bad way to spend 91 minutes.

In 2023, Kino upgraded their Girl on a Motorcycle DVD to Blu-ray for the first time. It ports over Cardiff’s original commentary track from the DVD and adds an alternate commentary from film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, who analyzes the film through a feminist lens.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A countercultural curio of almost painterly beauty…”–Joseph Jon Lanthier and Budd Wilkins, Slant (Blu-ray)

CAPSULE: VIDE NOIR (2022)

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Vide Noir is currently available for VOD rental or purchase.

DIRECTED BY: Ariel Vida

FEATURING: Victor Mascitelli, Ashleigh Cummings, Todd Stashwick

PLOT: When his fiancée leaves him for a mysterious music promoter, Buck leaves his hometown in an effort to get her back.

COMMENTS: From what I’ve read, “Vide Noir” is a Lynchian-cool jazz-lounge space album that was quite well received. From what I’ve seen, I am unsurprised that Ariel Vida, director of Vide Noir, is a professional music video director. From what’s on the internet, the little consensus there is about this film can be summarized thusly: Golly if it doesn’t look good, but what’s up with the hazy story and crummy performances?

A hazy story is not a problem—not for 366 at any rate. But something has bothered me since I watched the eighth chapter of this film, which covers the closing twenty minutes. Until this “Z’oiseau” segment (preceded by others titled “the Emerald Star”, “Whispering Pines”, and so on, depending upon the locale/character/artifact focused upon), I really didn’t care what was happening. Everything looked neat, if a little over-edited for the purposes of a motion picture (90+ minutes of music video-esque shot blending is a little distracting); the sound design was adequate (all the little scrapes, plinks, and peripheral noises fleshed things out nicely); and the plot was clear enough. The title, and main narrative hook, “vide noir” refers to an hallucinogen that, as explained by one of the dead characters (this was an added ambiguity that was neither explained nor pertinent), “comparing ‘Vide Noir’ to LSD is like comparing a space shuttle to a Greyhound Bus.”

The Z’oiseau character is referenced throughout in hushed, often frightened tones. He is Vide Noir‘s “Mister Big”, and he does not disappoint: calmly suave, marvelously mustachioed, and endowed with an erudition Buck lacks. That might be part of the problem, come to think of it. Buck is determined, and modestly resourceful, but, for whatever reason, he oozes corn-fed “charm,” despite being a Detroit native. Which finally brings to mind Vide Noir‘s primary problem: the heroine-femme-fatale-mystical-beauty. As heavy a weight of mystery and charisma is laid on Z’oiseau, a far greater weight of sheer mythic wonderment is laid on Lee, the fiancée. Buck is obsessed with and smitten by her, which might be excusable considering his simple nature. What makes less sense is the Lee-adoration from the incidental characters Buck encounters, and it makes even less sense from the villain of the piece. Lee’s reputation for desirability cannot merely be stated ad nauseum—the audience needs to see it (and believe) themselves.

On the topic of this noir femme, a second element (just barely) saves this film from any withering flippancy I would have otherwise been tempted into. As flawed (or, more accurately, pointless) as the opening and middle might be, the ending is refreshingly unexpected. Buck spends days-to-weeks pursuing the girl. He suffers humiliations, encounters ghosts, endures violence, and barely survives one nasty-looking overdose on his quest to find her and take her home. But the poor bastard never considered for a moment that he was not the hero of Lee’s story. While Ariel Vida would have done well to have kept her mysteries mysterious, Buck would be better off had he spent more time thinking through his own motives.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The band Lord Huron has produced, I guess, this trippy feature film inspired by their album ‘Vide Noir.’ And for the record, the music’s pretty cool, kind of twangy ‘Twin Peaks’ ethereal, unmoored in time, fitting for a pseudo-psychedelic film noir set in 1960s LA. The movie? It’s best summed up by the phrase ‘interesting failure.'”–Roger Moore, Movie Nation (contemporaneous)

30*. THE CONGRESS (2013)

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DIRECTED BY: Ari Folman                  

FEATURING: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Danny Huston, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Sami Gayle, Paul Giamatti, voice of Jon Hamm

PLOT: Film actress Robin Wright agrees to sell the rights to her image to a studio which will use the captured data to showcase an eternally young avatar in their productions. After 20 years, the producers invite her to extend the contract, and she travels to the meeting of a futuristic congress where all the participants ingest a chemical that allows them to invent their own reality and become anyone. When the congress proposes sharing this drug with the masses, Wright rebels, but her resistance is put down, and another 20 years on, she surveys the world that has resulted.

Still from The Congress (2013)

BACKGROUND:

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The trip through the animated landscape of Abrahama City is rife with psychedelic visions and eye-catching creations. The scenes within the animated universe are densely populated with caricatures of the famous and celebrated, representing alternative identities whom a disaffected humanity have chosen to take on in place of their own. Naming them all would be impossible, but I’d like to offer a particular shout-out to the person who decided to become Magritte’s apple-faced businessman. But the image that stays with you is a lonely and scared Robin Wright standing alone in the middle of a large and inhuman motion-capture dome, presenting a prism of emotions as the computers capture her every nuance. It’s an ironic manifesto for the value of human acting, as Wright the actress manifests the uncontrolled feelings of Wright the character.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Entrance to Abrahama City, Robin grows wings

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Animation has always reveled in its power to bend reality, making it an ideal medium for fantastical visions and deep dives into the imagination. The high-wire act that The Congress has to walk is literalizing animation’s attempt to slip the surly bonds of the real world. It’s not enough for this fantasy landscape to be trippy; it has to be a logical extension of the very real world being abandoned. It’s only appropriate that a movie star, the very avatar of a flesh-and-blood figure creating something artificial for our amusement, would be our guide. The film deftly juxtaposes the two worlds, each commenting upon the other and dramatizing the wonders and perils of our ongoing quest for escapism.

Original trailer for The Congress

COMMENTS: The most recent episode of the excellent podcast Continue reading 30*. THE CONGRESS (2013)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: LUX ÆTERNA (2019)

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DIRECTED BY: Gaspar Noé

FEATURING: , ,

PLOT: An art-house movie shoot is falling to pieces, with the director losing her cool, the lead receiving dreadful news from home, and the director of photography angling to take over the production.

Still from Lux Aeterna (2019)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Noé continues his exploration of artistic collapse with a deep dive into the traumatic possibilities found within filmmaking. Iconoclastic quotations, chaotic social disintegration, and dizzying technicolor strobe effects do a quick hit-and-run on the viewer, leaving the brain addled and the eyeballs reeling from the flicker.

COMMENTS: “Fuck entertainment movies” is either a defiant stance against mass media or a pretentious defense of fringe cinema. Either way, it is a very Frenchy disposition—or at least a very Frenchy cinematic disposition. Just off dooming a dance troupe in the psychedelic horror experience, Climax, Gaspar Noé continues to follow his chaotic muse. In LUX ÆTERNA he takes on his own field, filmmaking, and drags his cast and the viewers along with him on a quick trip into nightmare in his pursuit of art.

Events begin calmly enough. After a brief Häxan-influenced opener, we find Charlotte, an actress, and Béatrice, the director, calmly chatting about witches. Sometimes in one shot, sometimes in two photograph-slide frames side-by-side. This camera trick continues regularly throughout, capturing the behind the scenes chaos of the production of God’s Craft. The camera slides fluidly to, from, around, and between various concurrent scenes of imminent collapse: the producer cannot believe this erstwhile actress is such a horrible director; the various leads wonder just what is going on after a five-hour wait; the director of photography (who, as he reminds us, has done camera work for Godard) is on the cusp of quitting, lingering only in the hope that he might replace the current director.

LUX ÆTERNA is one of those very “meta” meta-movies. It’s a movie about a making a movie, certainly—and that’s been done. But it is informed and influenced exclusively by films pertaining to cinematigraphicality (to coin a phrase). Yellow Veil felt it advisable to include four iconic short films on the Blu-ray release: Kenneth Anger‘s “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome,” which clearly inspired Noe’s stylistic chaos; Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s “La Ricotta,” a religious-comedic-(existentialist) romp about a meaningless death on the set of a Crucifixion film shoot; and “Ray Gun Virus” and “The Flicker”—two items that both explore, at length, strobing effects both aural and visual. This in mind, you should only approach LUX ÆTERNA if you’re willing to do some homework.

That line above probably sounded like a closer, but it’s not. Gaspar Noé’s purpose here is that, as an artist, and by extension an appreciator of art, one cannot stop. Climax covered much of the narrative and stylistic ground retread here, but it is through an artist’s pursuit of complete expression, of expression as close to one’s vision as possible, that all art continues, no matter humanity’s circumstances. As LUX ÆTERNA reaches its climax, a stroboscopic nightmare blinds the cast, crew, and hangers-on. The director melts into self pity; the lead actress reaches peaks of psychological ill-ease; but the cameraman, an old fellow with experience, is clued in to what it is that is happening. Freak misfortune has given this ill-fated a movie a chance to achieve greatness despite itself, to bottle that lightning that has eluded all the planning and practice. He keeps rolling as Charlotte writhes—at first in pain, then in ecstasy—and the strobing lights blast the crowd. Films, per Noé, are not about entertainment. They’re about snatching that divine spark and showing it off to the world.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…like all of Noé’s films [it] is as much overwhelming hallucinatory experience as straightforward narrative… this “dream-like movie”, shot metacinematically behind the scenes, exposes the ugliness of a set, and of society, while also finding room in its ultimate, flickering apocalypse for a peak moment of multi-hued rapture.”–Anton Bitel, Little White Lies (Blu-ray)