Sunday, August 7, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place

Allen Ginsberg/Corbis, via Magnolia Pictures
Timothy Leary, left, and Neal Cassady, 
who drove Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus
in 1964, in footage from “Magic Trip.”
by Charles McGrath, on The New York Times website:

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place,” a film by Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood that opens on Friday, is an exercise in what they call “archival vérité.”

It’s a documentary that uses old footage to recreate a documentary that Kesey intended to make about his 1964 cross-country bus trip - the one so memorably chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s account, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

In all Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, as his crew called themselves, shot some 40 hours of 16-millimeter film, but the project was never really finished. As Mr. Wolfe wrote, “Plunging in on those miles of bouncing, ricocheting, blazing film with a splicer was like entering a jungle where the greeny vines grew faster than you could chop them down in front of you.”

Kesey showed all 40 hours unedited a couple of times and also hacked the footage up into various shorter versions before stowing the film cans in his barn, near Eugene, Ore., where they rusted away - until Mr. Gibney and Ms. Ellwood showed up.

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