The child is the father of the man in the gray flannel suit
Click to enlarge
Flash forward thirty-five years later and I find that Revolution isn’t a drug exploitation flick at all, but rather a documentary that’s currently on view at Netflix Instant (albeit unavailable on DVD). As hippie anthropological studies go, it’s invaluable. Producer-director Jack O’Connell took his camera to Flower Power Ground Zero, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district at the dawn of 1967’s Summer of Love, to capture the vibes of change and idealism already beginning to deteriorate from drugs, filth, disease, poverty and very poor hygiene.
In the free spirit of the times, O’Connell doesn’t bother with conventions like linear construction or identifying subtitles. Themes and locations shift at whim, interview subjects go unidentified. Anonymous faces provide scant commentary on David Smith’s Free Clinic, and The Diggers’ Free Store and free food program, both deserving more time and respect. As does the mystery existentialist envisioning a cash-free future run by computers necessitating the need for a pot-smoking leisure class. But these shortcomings don’t diminish some otherwise perceptive passages in Revolution, the most nostalgic of which concern the reach for a communal utopia, one the counterculture — countering greed, materialism, superficiality — believed would erase ego from the equation, to render the desire for personal reward obsolete… as their priestly rock star heroes drove around in chauffeured limos.
O’Connell makes a halfhearted attempt at using a narrator, a wan young woman who calls herself Today Malone (click inset to enlarge). She’s dropped out of the life her parents offered, the stability and security of the workaday world as outlined by Sloan Wilson in his gruesome novel, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, opting instead to panhandle, eat cost-effective oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and pig-out on Twinkies when the munchies hit. She and the filmmaker got together twenty-eight years later for The Hippie Revolution (1996), a film I haven’t seen which purportedly combines footage from Revolution with new material. It would be interesting to see what happened to Today, along with their thoughts on how most everything went to shit after the ‘60s.