|Asher Tzarfati as Hippie Mike|
|Lily Avidan as Elizabeth|
|Shmuel Wolf as Komo|
|Tzila Karney as Francoise|
Movies devoted to “The Gentle People” (hippies, flower children, peaceniks, the Love Generation) showing us both the light and the error of our ways through symbolism-heavy anti-war allegories. Utilizing avant-garde techniques borrowed from experimental films; these movies celebrated the counterculture philosophy and proffered bohemian alternatives to the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, imperialism, and knuckling down to "The Establishment."
|And now, a Public Service Announcement from Hippie Mike|
After bumming around Europe for a few years, Mike arrives in Israel looking for all the world like a lycanthropian Janis Joplin: barefoot and resplendent in floppy hat, dirty bellbottomed jeans, love beads, and sheepskin vest. But we soon learn that, as movie hippies go, Mike is one of the good ones. No anti-hero or rebel without a cause, he. For although he has a considerable ax to grind when it comes to society as a whole—“World, you’re so full of shit. You’re so badly contaminated, it’s impossible to find a corner free of smell!” —he’s a hippie conspicuously lacking in political convictions (not a peace sign flashed or "Power to the People" fist pump throughout the entire film); he's just a guy who wants to do his own thing, man.
Sure, he's a bit of a windbag when it comes to spouting off about his philosophy of life, but his credo is basically live-and-let-live, and he's quite the affable, easygoing sort. It's nice to know that even though the Vietnam War turned our hippie hero into a self-professed “killing machine,” it doesn’t prevent him from thanking the flight crew with a smile as he disembarks his plane, or helping a lady with her luggage at the airport. He’s just that kind of a hairy hippie guy.
|Described in various sources as everything from murderous mimes to "the painted men";|
to me these guys look more like zombie gangsters. Or, given their top hats,
the ghosts of aging Las Vegas chorus boys past
Were they a hallucination? An acid flashback? A costume shop metaphor for The Man always hasslin' the hippies? Hmmm...
|Mike mansplains freedom to Elizabeth while putting his dirty feet on her sofa|
What follows next is a kind of Hippie’s Guide to Tel Aviv as Mike and Elizabeth gambol about the city in a montage of self-consciously free-spirited breeziness that for a time was a staple of every self-respecting counterculture film. In due time the duo’s spiritual carefree footin’ draws the attention of two more like-minded souls: the lanky, non-English-speaking Komo (Wolfe), whose indignantly retreating hairline makes him seem a little “mature” for all this, and his bi-lingual girlfriend Francoise (Karney).
As our duo becomes a linked quartet, one is made instantly aware that certain conventions persist even amongst the most vehemently unconventional. The women are both young, slim, and in no way challenge the traditional Eurocentric beauty standard. The men, on the other hand...to put it charitably, don't exactly pose a threat to Joe Dallesandro's status as underground film's reigning male sex symbol.
|The Age of Aquarius took a little while to reach Israel|
|After an appropriate period of mourning (3 minutes), our four sun-baked Don Quixotes |
decide to forge ahead with their plans and establish a free, topless society of their own
|Declaration of Independence|
With their color-coded swimwear making them look like contestants on the oldest Survivor episode ever, our emancipated quartet revel in their newfound (short-lived) freedom.
Perhaps it's a commentary on the death of idealism or a bellwether metaphor for the demise of the whole hippie revolution; but the events play out with such speed and lack of nuance, they have the effect of contradicting all that came before.
The world is full of brilliant comics, satirists, and parodists; but try as they might, no one as yet has ever been able to intentionally capture the special magic that is the truly awful film that fails to recognize itself as such. I've an enduring affection for ambitious, ill-conceived, overly-sincere movies which attempt to balance a surplus of pretentiousness with a shortage of money and an absence of talent. In most cases these films are merely bad, but every once in a while, celluloid dross reveals itself to be pure gold.
An American Hippie in Israel is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, and indeed, some might find watching it without benefit of an audience or sans the sarcastic input of those Mystery Science Theater 3000 robots (a treatment this film cries out for) an impossible task. But being both a child of the '60s and a fan of so-bad-it's-good cinema, this movie had me laughing from beginning to end. Even when I wasn't quite sure what it was I was watching.
|Someone should tell Francoise the world doesn't like to be scolded|
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
|The Stepford Hippies|
Pad: Home, domicile, living quarters. Wherever one lays one's sheepskin vest.
The movie trailer that started it all.
TV Interview with Shmuel Wolf and Yaniv Edelstein (the man who spearheaded the film's resuscitation). English closed-captioned.
|What are we waiting for? Let's get on down there where we can live and be free! Free! Free!|