REVIEW: Magic Trip

25 03 2015

Magic TripIn the interregnum between the Beatnik era of “On the Road” and the hippies of “Inherent Vice,” there was Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters.  The writer, best known for the counterculture classic “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” rode around the country with a group of pals in a bus called “Further.”  They sought the creation of art and the consumption of drugs – it was the mid-1960s, after all.

Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s “Magic Trip” documents their odd voyage, though not with the usual talking heads and ex post facto interviews.  The directors got their hands on the 16 mm footage that Kesey and company shot on “Further” and construct most of their nearly two-hour documentary out of the raw material, which had previously been unseen by audiences.

Admittedly, this is a film that will appeal most to those familiar with Kesey’s work and are curious to learn more about the man and the time that spawned them.  “Magic Trip” often sags under the weight of its embarrassment of riches; after all, those who want to learn more should be able to experience as much of it as possible.

But even for those unfamiliar with the author or the circles in which he ran, “Magic Trip” still provides an excellent document of what it was like to be on the fringes of society before the tumult of the decade pushed more people that direction.  Gibney and Ellwood also do a brilliant job depicting their drug usage, crafting a brilliant sequence of words and images to accompany audio footage of Kesey’s first LSD trip.  And, mind you, that partaking was not merely recreational.  It was sponsored by the CIA.  What a time.  B+3stars

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