Film Festival Today

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Ride The Magic Bus

Written by: FFT Webmaster | August 16th, 2011

In 1964, most of America was rather strait-laced (even The Beatles wore suits and ties for their classic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show). However, even in those rather conservative times, there was the beginning of the hippie underground that would literally flower just three years in the glorious and infamous “summer of love” in San Francisco. In MAGIC TRIP, acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney has joined forces with fellow director Alison Ellwood to chronicle the writer Ken Kesey’s famously rambunctious cross-country road trip……fueled by drugs, free love and what would become flower power rebelliousness.

Psychologist Timothy Leary and Neal Cassady in Bus

Dismayed by the conformism of suburban, capitalistic America and by the violence up-ending the nation’s cultural life (the 1963 Kennedy assassination was still vivid), Kesey, the acclaimed novelist of the anti-establishment classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” assembled a crew of ragtag friends, including celebrated speed freak Neal Cassady, and converted a ramshackle school bus into a multi-colored “Pleasure Palace” and took to the road. Their destination from California: the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.

Equipped with 16mm cameras and sound equipment, the group — which dubbed itself the Merry Pranksters — set out to make both a cinematic scrapbook of their journey and a freeform collage of America as they felt and experienced it. Their cinematic record was never assembled into a coherent film, until now. Writer/directors Gibney and Ellwood use the existing footage, while employing voice-over actors to play the Pranksters, including Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci.  The merry band’s journey is marvelously brought to life, including everything from police stops and bus breakdowns to roadside acid trips and detours to check in with Texas author Larry McMurtry and “drop out guru” Timothy Leary. The film contains fascinating cameos by such iconic figures as beat author Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg, creating a vivid and evocative recreation of the pre-hippie era, when things were definitely on the down low and thrived only in the cultural underground. To relive the 1960s, visit:


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