We’re living through the summer of golden anniversaries: The Detroit and Newark rebellions occurred 50 years ago this season, as did the releases of “Sgt. Peppers” and “Bonnie and Clyde.” And then, overarching all, there was San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love, subject of Jack O’Connell’s on-site report, “Revolution.”
Mr. O’Connell’s grandly titled documentary — advertised “for adults only” when it opened in New York in 1968 — has been digitally restored for showings at Anthology Film Archives on Saturday and Sunday. It is a prize artifact. While images of hippies and be-ins may be overfamiliar, an 87-minute immersion in countercultural exuberance can still be disorienting. In its blithe sense of social breakdown, “Revolution” would make an excellent double bill with George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” — the yin to the yang of the period’s most evocative American movie.
A tour of Haight-Ashbury in “Revolution” is straight travelogue — bare feet, psychedelic posters, handmade notices pasted up by desperate parents, weird pets, garishly painted cars. These were all once novel. The requisite concert footage (Quicksilver Messenger Service, among other bands) is a strobe-lit cinéma-vérité frenzy with the camera aimed straight into the lights or positioned on the floor amid the free-form dancing. (The underground filmmaker Jerry Abrams receives a credit.)
Many of Mr. O’Connell’s interviews were gathered in Golden Gate Park. A couple in velvet cloaks and face paint declare themselves the King and Queen of Summer. A nun calls herself just another “hippie girl,” while a member of a guerrilla theater group boasts, “We struggle in our own humble way to destroy the United States.” Optimism is a virus. One founder of the Morning Star commune declares that in the future “leisure will be compulsory.” If only.
Mr. O’Connell’s guide to the territory is a fresh-faced 20-year-old college dropout from Arizona, Today Malone, who survives by panhandling and selling The Berkeley Barb. Formerly Louise, her new name came to her under the influence of LSD, which she claims to have taken “around 23 times.” Explaining how the chromosome damage that the drug was hysterically asserted to cause might actually lead to favorable mutations, she muses that “five years from now, I’ll probably be a wife and mother.”
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