An American Hippie in Israel Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
No synopsis for An American Hippie in Israel.
For more about An American Hippie in Israel and the An American Hippie in Israel Blu-ray release, see An American Hippie in Israel Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on September 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
"An American Hippie in Israel" isn't most subtle of titles, and its opening scene doesn't mess around with subtext. In a field of flowers, we see a steamroller making its way across the land, crushing natural beauty with its steely, heavy might. Amos Sefer's 1972 allegorical extravaganza announces its tone right up front, leaving little to the imagination as its threadbare plot and impulsive performances take over. It's been branded one of the worst films of all time by the guardians of cult cinema, and it certainly has enough clunky moments to merit such hyperbolic consideration. However, for all the nonsense and pull-your-hair-out padding that's included in the feature, Sefer has a weird vision for "Hippie" that almost works if one squints hard enough, attempting to make an anti-war picture that's soaked in oddity and nudity. It's an admirable effort, with periods of floppy B-movie shenanigans that are surprisingly entertaining.
Mike (Asher Tzarfati) is an American hippie still reeling from his experiences in Vietnam, where he was forced to kill innocents. Traveling abroad, Mike ends up in Israel, quickly hitching a ride with Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), a rich girl enamored with the visitor's ideals of personal freedom and leisure, quickly accepting him as a lover. Meeting up with like-minded flower children, including Komo (Shmuel Wolf) and his girlfriend (Tzila Karney), Mike and Elizabeth embark on an adventure, taking in the sights and sounds of the country. Trouble arrives with the Painted Men, two mime-like enforcers out to make Mike's life miserable. When the goons slaughter the local hippie population, the foursome escape to an island, dreaming of a better life built around their beliefs. However, paradise isn't everything it's cracked up to be, with Mike and his friends eventually stranded, finding a pair of hungry sharks thwarting the ease of escape.
Emerging from the fog of the 1960s, "An American Hippie in Israel" definitely has a cultural fingerprint, exploring the permissive attitude of the flower power generation as they criticize and make demands of society, imagining a utopian playground "without clothes, without government, and without borders." Sefer (who writes, directs, produces, and edits) fills the picture with hippie customs, including chemical excess, extended herky-jerky dance sequences, and an anti-war song performed by musical duo Susan & Fran. It's all casual sex, uncomfortably parted hair, and speechifying from Mike, who becomes a leader to the lost generation, wowing the locals with his authoritative opinions and call for bliss (even directly addressing the camera), hoping to trigger a tidal wave of change across the world. And if he can't have change, nudity will do, with some light swinging to help break up the monotony of the day. It's not like Komo (who doesn't speak English) is going to argue that point. Free love, then world peace. Priorities, people.
While the nude revolution is within his grasp, there's this situation with the Painted Men that keeps Mike on edge. Sefer doesn't explain who these guys are or what they're ultimately after, hinting that the duo might be the personification of "The Man," out to silence the hippie uproar. The white-faced goons stalk Mike, gun down his followers, and watch with patience as the American screws up every possible detail of his island exile, but they never take the opportunity to snuff out their enemy, who's an easy target. In a movie of strange behaviors and nonsensical plotting, the Painted Men are top of the pops, creating a gigantic mystery that Sefer shows no interest in solving.
"Hippie" has 90 minutes of screen time to fill, and it does so with extended takes, interminably improvised dialogue, and a road trip sequence that finds Mike and the gang traveling across Israel to their island paradise, stopping for sex, the procurement of a goat, and more sex. The locations are appealing, and the score by Nachum Heiman is exceptional, with the main theme (a rare event in B-movie construction) repeated throughout the film. The midsection of the effort finds some sense of momentum braided with psychological concern, pausing to take in a silent nightmare sequence that has Mike battling two men dressed as reel-to-reel robots with a giant hammer, acting out the fury in slow motion. It's bizarre, but Sefer seems like he has something to share with the audience on the state of post-traumatic stress disorder, only lacking the directorial skill to express himself in a serious manner. Still, "Hippie" is so vividly constipated in theme and execution, it remains perfectly watchable, boosted by Tzarfati's energized performance.
The AVC encoded image (1.77:1 aspect ratio) presentation for "Hippie" is satisfactory considering the obscurity of the title, with minimal visible damage outside of some debris and scratches. Some shake is present as well. Detail isn't robust on this no-budget feature, but the basics of facial and location textures are preserved, with a few shots showing impressive clarity. Colors are on the faded and flat side, but remain interesting, giving costuming a lift, while the exterior splendor of the countryside and sea-based pursuits come off natural, with pleasing hues. Skintones are reddish but appropriate. Evening sequences reveal thicker blacks and a pronounced red tint, making some screen activity difficult to see, while flicker is more prominent here than anywhere else in the film. Grain is managed well.
The 1.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix doesn't offer anything in the way of dimension, but its blunt position is agreeable. Nothing is lost during the chaotic track, finding heavily dubbed voices always easy to understand, with clear emotional nuance, while soundtrack selections carry confidently, delivering on instrumentation without overcrowded the listening event. Scoring is a big help, supporting with a secure sound, while atmospherics such as water and marketplace bustle are present to set the mood. Shrillness is perceived but never bothersome. Also offered is a 5.1 Dolby Digital "Beverly Cinema Experience," which presents the movie with audience reactions recorded in 2010. With constant derisive laughter and inane chatter, your mileage may vary on this selection.
Deleted Scenes (10:05, SD) collect rough scene extensions and a few extra beats of distress from the main character. The best is save for last, presenting a brief shot of the Painted Men returning to their alien home at the end of the feature, which alters the picture's intent drastically.
"The Hitchhiker" (1:34:04, SD) is an alternate cut of "Hippie" (offered here on DVD), pulled from an archival print discovered in 2010. The image and sound are rough, with burned-in subtitles.
"16mm Screen Tests" (9:11, SD) are silent reels of actor tryouts, with these men and women awkwardly figuring out their screen presence for the production.
Interviews (56:08, HD) with Asher Tzarfati and Shmuel Wolf were recorded in 2009, catching up with the stars of the feature almost 40 years after its release. Discussing the thematic intent of the work, the shocking intimacy shared between the actors, the hippie ornamentation, and the daily challenges of production (with an emphasis on improvisations), the men are open and honest about their experience during the shoot, revealing an equal measure of embarrassment and pride in their performances. Their recollections don't always match, but their enthusiasm and anecdotes are fantastic.
A Filmography for Tzarfati and a Biography for director Amos Sefer are offered.
"Be Careful Children" (6:43, SD) is a war-themed silent short from Sefer's early days.
"A Cult is Born" (4:39, HD) travels to Israel to inspect growing interest in "Hippie," where revival screenings have turned the viewing experience into a "Rocky Horror" event, complete with audience participation. Interviews with fanatics are included.
"Channel 10 Segment" (10:22, SD) is a Israeli news piece covering the rise of "Hippie" as "the worst film ever made," walking viewers through the steps of bad moviedom, offering interviews with Tzarfati, Wolf, and Sefer's son.
Interview (4:00, HD) with assistant production manager Moshe Berman helps to clarify how the film was financed, with the investor taken for a ride as Sefer and his Hollywood training managed to drain all available cash, only to watch the picture be shelved and forgotten.
Interview (7:08, SD) with Susan Devor explores one of the performances found in the film, tracking the rise of the musical duo Susan & Fran, and how these singers ended up in "Hippie." Fran Avni appears later in the featurette via Skype, but the conversation is cut short by technical issues. Finally, we observe Devor perform after a screening of "Hippie."
"Shmuel's Still Show" (5:00, HD) returns to Wolf for additional anecdotes as he pages through photos from the film.
Still Galleries offer Production Stills (59 images) and Promotional Materials (32 images).
Rejecting society and technology, the final act of "Hippie" follows Mike and the crew to their dream island, where matters go from bad to worse once their raft floats away in the middle of the night, with patiently still sharks making a swim to shore impossible. Losing what little passes here for pace, the film becomes a slog of shapeless argumentative behavior, though funneled into a fascinating idea of regression, watching the peace-loving hippies turn to war to settle their differences. Of course, this irony confuses the ultimate intent of "Hippie," but there's little here that suggests Sefer had a clear vision in mind when he began production. Instead of a statement on the ills of the world, he's made something far goofier, which is perhaps the best possible outcome for this misguided endeavor. As gospel, it's a trainwreck. As a punchline, "An American Hippie in Israel" is easily digestible and consistently amusing -- a perfect addition to any cult movie collection.
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