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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Magic Trip Bus Ride With Ken Kesey and Neil Cassady

The year is 1964. Ken Kesey, author of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' decides to take a group of friends he calls "The Merry Pranksters" on a cross country trip to the New York State fair. Buying an old school bus the group paints the vehicle in a wild collage of colors. They name the bus "Furthur", pack it full of illegal substances and proceed to have a drug fueled LSD romp across the United States. All this was shot in 16 mm film (that feels a like a home movie by today’s standards) and produced into a documentary called "Magic Trip"

Neal Cassady, made famous as a character Jack Kerouac's book 'On The Road', fittingly drives the bus most of the time. He is fun, hyperactive, and never seems to really be paying attention to the road. He, along with some others, completely embraces the trip and enjoys each moment. Others are not so thrilled and reluctantly accept the monotony of the drive and the crazy antics that surround them.

I suspect this film's audience will be divided in a similar way. Some will endure the ride and others will think this movie is great fun. This is the kind of film that you really need to relate to in some way or else you won't find much purpose in it. Magic Bus doesn't produce any social commentary or come to any tangible conclusions. If you lived through the early sixties you'll likely find Magic Bus to be an interesting, perhaps nostalgic, cross-country snap shot of that era. If you read "On The Road" you'll appreciate watching Neil Cassady and all his manic craziness. Road trip film lovers should enjoy this movie as well.

I enjoyed "Magic Trip" because I never experienced that sense of spontaneity where I could just drop everything and hit the road. This film for me was a vicarious trip.  Some folks will think the Merry Pranksters are just a bunch of adults that refuse to grow up. I admit, I kind of admire them and the story they have created for themselves to tell.

Another aspect of Magic Bus I found surprising was the fact this is not a 'hippie' film. The Merry Pranksters all believe in their country and are not protesting anything. They are a product of the Beat generation 50's. They are intellectual and clean cut, yet immensely free spirited. 1964 is a sort of pre-revolution time. The hippie movement has not begun and neither has the conservative backlash. Because of this The Pranksters and their colorful bus,Furthur, are not viewed with suspicion across small town USA. They are viewed with curiosity, amusement and an odd sort of acceptance.

With all that said, free love, experimentation and substance abuse existed back then too and this film embodies heavily that within the tight confines of Furthur.


107 minutes

Rated R

If you enjoy films about people who are spontaneous and live life on their own terms, I watched a terrific film called Commune. It is a documentary about people who manage to live in a completely different manner and peace than most do.  I wrote a review on this film so if you get a moment, check out my post and see if this your kind of film.

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