Psych-Out (Richard Rush / U.S., 1968):

The panoply of creative quandaries, Aquarius and Inferno, "a Dick Clark production." The distressing world at large is stated in fragments on a dark screen (bombings, toxic advertisements, demonstrations) until the image is pulled together into the yearning face of the young runaway (Susan Strasberg) about to enter Haight-Ashbury at the sticky height of the Summer of Love. San Francisco ‘68: Every room like a thrift shop, folks on the floor and baby lizards in the fridge, bead necklaces strewn like serpentine, Jack Nicholson with a clip-on ponytail not quite miming a number that sounds like Jimi Hendrix played backwards. The ingénue is Puccini’s Mimi, surely, gone deaf after literally regurgitating the old generation’s negativity like motor oil; her search for an estranged brother (Bruce Dern, with tangled tresses that change his zealous gaze back and forth from Jesus to Charles Manson) leads to a bacchanalian garden already carrying the seeds of its own destruction. "Talk about lack of communication, man!" Richard Rush’s inventive camera revels in all countercultural fauna and flora, peeping into crystal orbs and grooving to sitars and tambourines, while Nicholson’s screenplay continues The Trip’s treatment of the artist in crisis (concluded the following year in Easy Rider) in a multiplicity of portraits -- Henry Jaglom as a psychedelic poster designer armed with LSD tablet and power saw, Max Julien as a drummer turned stoned Lancelot, Dern as the Seeker last seen smiling inside a bonfire. (From his rooftop den, the shamanic Dean Stockwell scoffs at the "big plastic hassle" of selling out.) The kaleidoscopic crescendo builds to a lyrical-sinister lightshow in the Golden Gate Bridge before crashing down to earth, "reality is a rotten place to be." Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. With Adam Roarke, Linda Gaye Scott, Ken Scott, The Seeds and The Strawberry Alarm Clock.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home