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[VIDEO] Documentary: ‘Revolution’ (1968)

It’s hard to imagine a moment remotely similar in the history of the human race. Between 1966 and 1969, LSD was still semi-legal and becoming hugely popular, as much a middle class rage as Twitter is now, turning an entire demographic from self-absorbed mopes into eastern spirituality-embracing free spirits (instead of vice versa). And not only the young people but adventurous parents were jumping into the fire and disappearing from the 9-5 fidelity-based spousal system. Kids began to grow up in communes instead of two car garages; group marriages and swinging were acceptable substitutions for the exclusivity of the two person pair bond; and LSD was everywhere, recommended in 4 out 5 clinical psychiatrist offices, doctoral psychology experiments, and middle American homes. Owsley gave out thousands of pure ‘purples’ (from which “Purple Haze” gets its name) as free samples at Monterey Pop Festival alone. Tastemakers were jumping onboard right and left. One hit and your whole life opened up like a flower you never even knew had been closed. Films like Blow-Up, The Trip, Easy Rider, and The Endless Summer made a conventional three act narrative strictly for squares.

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No matter what your age, it was pretty ‘hip’ in the upper and middle classes to at least have tried it, even if it was just so you had something to talk about during Friday night’s bridge game. Having that ‘experience’ made you cool, like skydiving or bungee jumping (or cocaine) in the 1980s, or ecstasy in the 90s.

So along comes REVOLUTION, about which the always insightful Flickhead writes:

In the free spirit of the times, [filmmaker] O’Connell doesn’t bother with conventions like linear construction or identifying subtitles. Themes and locations shift at whim, interview subjects go unidentified. Anonymous faces provide scant commentary on David Smith’s Free Clinic, and The Diggers’ Free Store and free food program, both deserving more time and respect. As does the mystery existentialist envisioning a cash-free future run by computers necessitating the need for a pot-smoking leisure class. But these shortcomings don’t diminish some otherwise perceptive passages in Revolution, the most nostalgic of which concern the reach for a communal utopia, one the counterculture — countering greed, materialism, superficiality — believed would erase ego from the equation, to render the desire for personal reward obsolete…  (cont.)

Damn right, Flickhead. What the fuck happened to the pursuit of egolessness? With music by the Steve Miller Band (freshly formed), Country Joe and the Fish, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, we get some ideas of how to pick up the egoless thread. Watching today, the crunchy psychedelic guitars are a most welcome presence in one’s living room (dig, the “living”… room) even if you’re not paying full attention to the kids onscreen or the squares gawking from the sidelines at the never-ending parade of panhandlers along the Haight.

Whoa man. I’m totally tripping after seeing it. My Pupils are dilated in the mirror but reflecting someone 20-years old and foxy, dancing like a girl who just found freedom, who just stepped out her shell… a girl named… Today.

No, man, that’s like her name. She changed her name to ‘Today,’ because that’s all we have. That’s everything there is. Dig? Can you imagine where that chick’s head is at, man?

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Her big LSD trip–captured by O’Connell’s camera from start to finish–anchors the whole second half of the film: There’s Today, begging for change in a really attractive, clean looking brown and light green poncho. She climbs trees and frolics in the park; she drives up the coast to dig the old growth redwoods. There’s squiggly light shows. Flowers! Flowers! She strokes an apple –it’s breathing! Someone eats a banana. Some dude paints some crazy colors. She lies in the grass with two girlfriends, giggling hysterically. Even with the 21st century’s rose tint-free glasses you can see the auric waves as her whole body sighs in relief as five hundred years of socio-genetic programming is short-circuited and overcome with a single white pill and the kind of good set and setting the Haight in 1965-7 could provide.

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Unfolding with one eye on the exploitation market, it could be argued on some level that REVOLUTION was meant less to wake the people up from their westernized stupor and more to turn on the raincoat brigade, all those lusty adults curious about the supposedly limitless free love available if they ever went to San Francisco. Hence there’s a lengthy naked dance troupe going nuts under liquid psychedelic lights to Country Joe and the Fish’s most psychedelic instrumental, “Section 43” (below). But such a prurience is addressed in the film, too, as the Sexual Freedom League explains that only couples are allowed into the orgy to keep the numbers even (so dirty old men don’t overrun the scene and turn it into the end of Requiem for a Dream orViridiana).

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In a way, it’s sad the SFL had to do that, such rule-making is the first unraveling thread on total freedom’s poncho. As someone who’s done decades of grieving for the loss of the countercultural revolutionary dream, I’ve always had a keen hatred for male sexual aggression for just this reason. You can’t have a free utopia with members who are obsessed with sex … (read more)

via Acidemic – Film

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