Monday, October 7, 2013

An American Hippie In Israel

 An American Hippie In Israel Directed by Amos Sefer starring Asher Tzarfati (1972).
Special thanks to Grindhouse Releasing for sending a copy of An American Hippie and Corruption (review forth coming) to the Theater Of Guts Headquarters!
The credit music by Nachum Heiman (?!) sounds like an instrumental Lee Hazlewood song and gives you the impression that you're in for a rough counter culture journey on the level of Ultra Glide in Blue or some other gritty anti-establishment time capsule effort.
Mellow Out, why so edgy?
    Mike the hippie (played by Asher Tzarfati) wears a floppy hat and a bath rug as a groovy vest, he hops off a plane, sticks out his dingy thumb and awaits the ultimate journey! He looks like Joe Preston or the Virgil Root beer mascot and has a menacing stare. A redhead with granny glasses and mod clothes played by Lily Avidan picks him up, she grills him about being a dropout and he seems reluctant to admit he's an "American Hippie in Israel"!    
Abe Vigoda in toxic greasepaint
   Then he's confronted by two 60's Batman villain looking mimes in top hats, who may exist only in Mike's acid soaked brain. Over some coffee, Mike goes into his brutal time as a "murdering machine" in Vietnam, as abrupt splices of war are interjected (in the deleted scenes you'll see more of this authentic corpse footage). He goes into an angry diatribe about "wild d'animals pushing buttons" and looks directly into the camera. After a long montage on the beach, a bunch of hippie followers form a dreaded sing-a-long, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the music to be pretty decent. They all just want to escape from the establishment and soon the wine and dope is passed around. 
We should start our own kids show called The Chuckle Patch
   The hippies are suddenly gunned down by the mimes, only four survive the gathering. Mike emits the most dreaded word "Family" to his new friends played by Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney. At the time in the public's mind, "Family" meant only one thing during the summer of love: Charles Manson. But AHII never allows itself to flip that switch and only wades in the low end of the kiddie pool. 
   I'm onboard for this magical journey, I only wish it had more teeth and less thorazine in its veins. The audio drops out during Mike's nightmare about the rich ignoring the cries of the dirt poor and giant film reel creatures on a hillside (perhaps this is his fear of technology and progress). Some sharks that look like they're inflatable ruin the party. There's a nice topless beach cat fight to look forward to during the last ten minutes as the group begins to sour and feel animosity toward each other. After the separation between the four, a barbaric instinct begins to possess them and it gets slightly ugly. The establishment seems to win this round and the corporate mimes drive off in a flying car.         
An American Hippie In Israel was filmed on the Coral Island in Tel Aviv. The cast interviews are vital and they do a terrific job of explaining what was going on during their point in history with the Hippie era and the Israeli 6 day war. Many of the actors and even the director had zero film credits and oddly enough Mike The Hippie according to IMDB later showed up in a Van Damme/ Dennis Rodman atrocity called Double Team directed by TOG favorite Tsui Hark!! 
I warned you not to bring up Dennis Rodman!
   They were making an anti-imperial statement and that essence is commendable and shines through, as ineptly executed as it's conveyed. 
   There's no denying that like the Hippie movement itself at the time seemed important and rebelling against the old guard will always serve to give the next generation strength. Grindhouse Releasing does a top notch job with the extras and the short film with the actors give you a perspective on the set (which included a non-simulated sex scene between Mike and Lily).  
   This reviewer is used to delving into ultra negative territory like "My Friends Need Killing", but AHII is more in league with fluff like AIP Biker flicks (the soft edge of Born Losers with Billy Jack springs to mind). There's no hard edge for the usual fare connected with Grindhouse, its basically Head with a meaner streak. That being said, I ignored all the bash reviews churned out by critics looking for a blood bath and left my mind open. If you are looking for Namploitation like Rolling Thunder, don't bother. But if you are willing to accept the journey and leave your preconceived anger at the door, than you may enjoy this goofy counter culture ride with an undercurrent of seriousness and a ton of charm and sincerity. 
Available on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack teeming with extras (don't just stream anymore, DVD's are still a vital entity and support important companies like GR)!


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