To many Ken Kesey will be known as the author of the classic book One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but in 1964 a Legendary road trip of discovery would change Kesey’s life. Joined by the ‘Merry Pranksters‘ Kesey and co would embark on a mammoth LSD fuelled cross country trip from east to west cost to New York’s them world fair that trip was the MAGIC TRIP.
Among the pranksters (along with the many they meet on the journey too) are Neal Cassady resident speed freak, driver and even painter of the converted school bus, immortalised in Jack Kerouac‘s On The Road, influence for Dean Moriarty. Too young to be beatniks, too early for the hippie generation the pranksters were a free loving acid test, parting, artistic free thinkers a part of history who has seemed to have forgotten about.50 years on Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney has flicked through the archives to bring an extraordinary slice of American pie to life, it’s called Magic Trip.
Been a child born in the mid 1970’s, the 1960’s are a unknown entity to myself even today 36 years on I’m still learning about the decade as well as decades of it, but like a lot of my generation (and recent ones) we learn via books, tv, music pop culture in general or even better relatives. Magic Trip will certainly spark the streak of nostalgia for those old enough to remember the decade, sparking memories that possibly been lying stagnant for a long time. Alex Gibney and sparring partner have had to delve through over 100 hours of footage that’s come from Kesey’s family, so have those painstakingly long hours made this film enjoyable?
Yes. Magic Trip is like one person’s vision of the birth of 1960’s America, before the hippies grew their hair long and when Americana started to spread her wings influencing cultures worldwide. The young generation of World War 2 has now grown up, scared to move own with the times coming more conservative probably scared that the young generation of the 1960’s growing restless of having no voice encouraging them freedom of expression. This film is a journey of discovery, experimenting with drugs, to free think be rebellious, young and free. Magic Trip is further proof every generation has or has had their owned rebellious teens wanting to find their voices.
Magic Trip is that perfect example of DIY filmmaking, depicting a forgotten generation of protesters more interested in what looked a fulfilling, thoughtful life living in their own version of the American dream. Stanley Tucci interaction as the film’s narrator help’s bridge the gap between viewer and prankster really well making a lot of the footage which had no sound a lot more interesting.It’s just a shame many of the pranksters are no longer with us as it would have been intriguing to see how they would be like now but hearing their thought process was entertaining.
LSD experimenting was a big influence throughout the film as virtually everyone was on acid and the film was like there own big ‘science experiment’ as the trip was the evidence of what it did to them. On a positive note they pranksters may have taken the drugs like we do bars of chocolate, but they never glorify the drugs and many of the group actually go on to promote not using the drug. Whatever your views on drug taking and what it does to your mental health when you look back at the writers of the time many of them wrote some of the best stories a lot of cult classics like Kesey’s One flew over the cuckoo’s nest so it was really fascinating to see Kesey’s thought process in creating the book and his views film version too. On a negative side, it felt the documentary was a little repetitive and we learn near enough all the pranksters left disappointed from the World fair in New York so the return journey back felt rushed or even felt they struggled to fill that part up, which is a shame after the positive start.
Magic Trip is the nostalgic trip into 1960’s America, changing times for the world leaving the shadows of world war two giving the ‘forgotten’ generation a voice to relate to or to give them a reality check “Was I that bad then?”
| Paul Devine
Documentary | USA, 2011| 15 | 28th November, 2011 |Studiocanal | Dir.Alex Gibney, Allison Ellwood