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What a long, strange trip it’s been In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA

taking_woodstock_photo5The video store isn’t just a place to rent the latest DVDs. Hidden among the shelves are dozens of time capsules from another age.

Want to know what made Americans laugh in the 1920s? Rent The Gold Rush. How about a look at life in postwar Italy? Check out Open City. These shelves offer row upon row of living history; moving images that bring history to life.

Perhaps no decade has been as documented on film as the 1960s. From failed attempts to present the counter culture(Skidoo and Valley of the Dolls) to more zeitgeist grabbing entries(Woodstock and Zabr­iskie Point) and newer films that try to capture the spirit of the make-love-not-war decade (this weekend’s Taking Woodstock) the films of and about the ‘60s paint a portrait of a decade of change.

Jack Nicholson claims to have watched Head, a psychedelic movie he helped write and produce, and starring The Monkees, “Like, 158 times.” Seen through modern eyes it’s hard to imagine multiple viewings of this strange movie, but there is a certain crazy charm to it.

More a stream-of-consciousness rant than an actual movie, Head is jammed full of musical numbers, film satires and references to ‘60s hot button topics like Vietnam and eastern religions.

As a movie it’s kind of a frustrating experience — Wikipedia says “even fans tend to disagree whether the film is a landmark of surreal, innovative filmmaking or simply a fascinating mess” — but it does capture the anarchic spirit of its time.

Jack Nicholson contributed to many counter culture films, most notably Easy Rider, but his script for the The Trip is a little known gem of druggie propaganda. Directed by Roger Corman (who drop­ped acid along with stars Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda to prepare for filming) it’s a snapshot of the frontier of the drug culture of the 1960s.

Fonda stars as a bored television director who drops acid and spends the balance of the movie hallucinating. An orange becomes “the sun in my hands, man!” before the trip turns sour and he is threatened by a chair. It’s a madcap film featuring a strange sex scene with optical effects projected onto writhing bodies and loads of “groovy” dialogue.

If you weren’t there, or were there and can’t remember, these films offer a glimpse into the wild world of the 1960s.

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