Movie review: ‘Magic Trip’ a trippy bit of Age of Aquarius archaeology
The best literary and psychedelic bridge between the last-gasp era of the beatniks and the rainbow-hued reign of the hippies was laid down by author Tom Wolfe in his epochal work of New Journalism, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
It was a richly detailed, verbally exuberant, eyewitness account of the 1964 cross-country odyssey in a garishly painted school bus of writer-guru Ken Kesey and his LSD-addled Merry Pranksters. Now, just shy of 50 years later, filmmakers Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood have ably mined sections of the 16mm film footage shot by Kesey and his stoned companions – along with non-synchronized snippets of woozy audio – into a suitably raw and rambling documentary titled “Magic Trip.”
It’s a trippy relic of baby-boomer idealism and rebellion, an Age of Aquarius bit of archaeology that perhaps best serves as a jittery, chaotic, psychedelic companion piece to Wolfe’s vibrating and still-vital book.
Gibney (Oscar winner for 2007’s “Taxi to the Dark Side”) and his long-time editor Ellwood fortunately gained access through the Kesey estate to almost 100 hours of film and audio footage that had sat unattended in an Oregon barn for 40 years.
Almost magically, they’ve synthesized that raw material into a freewheeling but largely coherent collage, adding some after-the-fact interviews with iconic characters, some contextual narration by Stanley Tucci and even bits of hippie-dippy animation to evoke the hallucinogenic spirit of the times.
The robust, charismatic Oregon novelist Kesey, flush from his success with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” stands at the center of this strange trip. With his new book, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” coming out, Kesey concocted a plan for a barnstorming tour across country to the World’s Fair in New York to promote the novel and have some foolish fun.
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