HEAD

1968; directed by Bob Rafelson; written by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson; 85 mins

Experiencing Head with the sister-in-law is hard to explain. In so many ways. At this stage I haven’t done any research above and beyond watching the movie but I suspect that The Monkees may gotten involved with hallucinogenic drugs somewhere along the line in this motion picture venture.

… OK, done some research now and it makes a lot of sense. A fucksight more than the movie. In-fighting, petulance, desire to be taken seriously. “adventure musical satitrical film” – Hmm. That’s about as close as you’re gonna get. POPSTARS MAKE STATEMENT:

WAR! VIETNAM, MAN! TV! BOXES! MERMAIDS! BRIGHT COLOURS! COCA-COLA! CHICKS! WAR! ‘N’ STUFF!

… ‘s campy fun. Clearly a midpoint between a first time director getting let loose with his big box of tricks and a large stash of new, chemical freedoms! There’s A Hard Day’s Night and by extension French New Wave, preceding The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and running with their buddies over in 2001.

Vietcong getting executed, though? Woah! Back up! You can’t handle that… and don’t do it four times. Documentary footage of Vietnamese people being oppressed in the midst of a psychedelic freakout makes you look stupid! “Totally negative vibe merchants”*

I haven’t described the plot yet. But then the film doesn’t. Micky wandering through the desert, having a fight with a Coke dispenser. Davy seeing a gigantic eye behind a bathroom mirror. Peter breaking the fourth wall, getting fretful over the ethics of punching a bloke dressed as a woman. Michael getting the weirdest surprise birthday party. Those are the sketches that make the most sense. The TV show didn’t make a whole heap of sense but it had a basic plot. Here’s a stream of ‘consciousness’ timeline of shit that happens.

Wot to say except, it’s a pop movie. A slightly pretentious pop movie that’s got some WHAT-THE-FUCK-IS-GOING-ON(?!) appeal. The TV show was kitsch. This is surreal. Make an interesting line-up alongside The Holy Mountain and Scorpio Rising. A teen-friendly substitute.

I mean, this was made for the teen market! The Jonas Brothers can fuck right off! Whatever else one can say about the film’s numerous flaws, today’s pop-based cash-ins for millennial tween corporate vehicles don’t even have a half o’ one idea that this movie has! Jesus! I saw Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker in the same night and he may have been a great pop star but FUCK ME he should not have been let anywhere near the writing process!

Anyway, you can’t have shallow without some depth. And Jack Nicholson was an interesting writer. He, apparently, was the most enthused about the whole project and it’s easy to see a more Nicholson-like abrasive nature here that also speaks to the greater creative control given to him and Rafelson, anticipating BBS Productions and the actor’s own hellraising reputation.

If you’re a fan of The Monkees… you’ve probably already seen this. If you’re not but you have a residual interest in pop cash-in movies… probably seen it too. Everyone else – it’ll probably get on your tits.

Neil

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