I had an absolutely highlarious time watching the long lost cult classic An American Hippie in Israel. Made without an ounce of filmmaking polish by Israeli writer/producer/director Amos Sefer, this aggressively asinine counterculture relic from 1972 was recently rediscovered, refurbished, and released on Blu-ray by that fine man of cinematic idiocy Bob Murawksi over at Grindhouse Releasing. Clearly, the film was made with a purpose and intent, but the filmmaking chops are so non-existent that you just sit back and groove with the shenanigans, if you’re up for this sort of demented and stony silliness. I kept asking myself throughout the first hour — why is there an echo quality to the dialogue and a laugh track, as I was totally not getting the importance or significance of having a studio-audience-esque laugh track accompanying every scene. Maybe for a stab at satire? Maybe just to be a clown? Then, about an hour into the film, I realized that the disc had booted up with the “New Beverly Audio Experience” special feature, where you get to hear a live audience’s reaction to a special screening of the film. that was recorded in Los Angeles at the famed theater. LOL. Then, I figured, what the hell, I’ll watch the rest with the Hebrew subtitles running at the bottom of the screen, because, well, why the hell not? Was everyone literally blasted while making this film?
There’s blatant amateurish laughter from almost every main performer and extra that the camera passes by, and the film was clearly made with a love for the ideas but without a shred of filmmaking prowess. Honestly, it’s perfectly terrible in every department, with the “narrative” resembling a loose jumble of scenes and ideas, revolving around a 20-something American hippie and Vietnam war veteran named Mike (the impressively horrendous Asher Tzarfati), who travels to Israel after serving time in the war. He hitchhikes a ride with three random strangers, who then take him to an island community of hippies and freeloaders, where they can live a life of peace and harmony, while frequently undressing and ragging on the government, ripping doobies and often times twirling around in place. But the revelers are not without their issues, as a seemingly random set of bullying mimes show up from time to time to inexplicably annoy the crunchies; my guess is that they are supposed to represent “The Man,” who Mike is so agitated with all throughout the story.
There are lots of scenes of people driving in a convertible along the Israeli coast, lots of detours for dirty, unkempt lovemaking, tons of female nudity, with the addition of a live goat spicing up the proceedings for a bit. The film ends in fabulously chaotic fashion with tons of screaming, yelling, phony violence, and arm flailing. It all has to be seen to be believed. It’s wildly funny at times, whether intentional or not, and it’s never boring despite it feeling wholly slapdash and incredibly off-kilter. Ya’ackov Kallach’s cinematography is actually kind of cool to look at despite the budget being obviously low. Tzarfati gives a fabulously terrible lead “performance,” seemingly inventing new wave-lengths of awfulness as his performance “progresses.” Driving in circles seemed like THE thing to do!