Friday, September 13, 2013

#1,124. An American Hippie in Israel (1972)

Directed By: Amos Sefer

Starring: Asher Tzarfati, Shmuel Wolf, Lily Avidan

Tag line: "Right-On!"

Trivia: Has been a "Midnight Movie Sensation" in Tel Aviv since its rediscovery in 2007, and has played there once a month since then

The other day, I got the brand-new, limited edition Blu-ray of 1972’s An American Hippie in Israel in the mail. According to the description on the back cover, this “long-lost psychedelic classic” featured “machine-gun wielding mimes, robots, bloodthirsty sharks, free loving debauchery and poignant antiwar monologues by raving mad hippies”.

Two seconds later, I was popping it into my Blu-ray player!

An Israeli counter-culture film directed by Amos Sefer, An American Hippie in Israel stars Asher Tzarfati as Mike, the titular American hippie who has come to Israel (which is referred to only as “the country” in the movie) to escape his horrible memories of the Vietnam War (he personally killed a number of enemy soldiers). 

Shortly after his arrival, Mike meets Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), an actress-in-training who shares his desire to break away from society. The two eventually hook up with another couple (Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), and all four of them head to a deserted island, where they hope to spend the rest of their lives. 

Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Realizing their boat has mysteriously disappeared, the couples search frantically for food, but find none. 

What’s more, two men in black suits and wearing white make-up have been following Mike for months, and he is convinced they want him dead.

It goes without saying that An American Hippie in Israel is very dated; along with the flower power-era music that occasionally fills the soundtrack, there’s the anti-war, anti-establishment philosophy that writer/director Amos Sefer continually shoves down our throats (it starts before the opening credits are finished, when a field full of beautiful flowers is inexplicably flattened by a steamroller - signifying man’s encroachment on nature - as the sound of machine-gun fire slowly drowns out the music). 

As for the performances, Asher Tzarfati does occasionally come across as genuine, but maybe that’s because all of the actors surrounding him are piss-poor (Lily Avidan often sounds as if she’s reading her lines off a cue card). 

The dialogue isn’t anything to write home about, either. Shortly after picking him up on the side of the road, Elizabeth asks Mike where he’s from, and he tells her he’s an American from New York. “I hear it’s quite a place”, she says. “It sure is” replies Mike. Seriously riveting stuff, huh?

Here’s the kicker, though: I loved An American Hippie in Israel! Loved it! This movie is so wild, so goofy, and so ridiculously self-important that you can’t help but admire it. I laughed out loud when Mike walked out of the airport and the camera pulled back to reveal he had been barefoot the entire time, the first of many surreal moments that An American Hippie in Israel has to offer. 

Take, for instance, Mike’s first on-screen encounter with the so-called "mimes". As Mike and Elizabeth are driving down the road, a black car darts in front of them. Mike yells for Elizabeth to stop, then gets out to confront the occupants, who happen to be the two mimes, now standing, side by side, next to their vehicle. They silently stare at Mike as he asks them a few pointed questions, and don’t react at all when he angrily calls them “scum of the earth” and “shitheads”. It’s an incredibly bizarre scene in a movie chock-full of 'em (I can’t even begin to describe Mike’s dream sequence).

If the opportunity ever presents itself, I would definitely recommend you check out An American Hippie in Israel. I guarantee you've never seen anything like it!

1 comment:

CpT GoThMcLaD said...

Yeah very weird film can't say it's good in a classical sense but... I can't say it's bad either it's just too unclassifiable I wouldn't fancy having a crack at reviewing it lol so kudos mate