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FYIVOD for the week of March 22nd: Psychedelia

The world of film is changing. For one thing, there’s not much actual film anymore. The future is digital; more and more, it’s streaming on our computers, too. Every week in FYIVOD, we survey the landscape online movies to bring you a snapshot of what’s available. This week, get ready for some crazy flashbacks as we explore the world of psychedelic movies.

THIS WEEK’S THEME: Psychedelia

Are you guys seeing that? That rainbow colored turtle that’s flying and also shooting lasers of pure energy out of its tail and also singing U2′s “Angel of Harlem?” No? That’s just me? Hrm, well maybe I’ve just been watching too many psychedelic movies in preparation for this week’s FYIVOD on the subject. Whether you’re a fan of the goofies, or you just think The Goofies was a Disney cartoon, these films are sure to alter your perception for a couple hours, man (Gotta use the word man when you’re writing like you’re high. That’s how you know you’re high… man).

On SundanceNow
ENTER THE VOID (2010)
Directed by Gaspar Noe
$3.99 to rent or stream; $17.99 to purchase

Most drug movies attempt to ape the mind-altering affects of their subject substances. But few films have gone as far to put us inside the warped headspace of a drug user as ENTER THE VOID, which uses first person perspective camera to help us turn on, tune in, and drop out along with Oscar, a drug dealer living in Tokyo. When a deal goes bad, Oscar is shot and his consciousness rises out of his body. On the way to the ultimate afterlife, things get even more psychedelic: Oscar’s life flashes before our eyes, we witness the impact of his death on friends and family, and later his consciousness merges with his buddy as he has sex with Oscar’s sister, even traveling inside his sister’s vagina as his friend ejaculates. Which is in no way creepy. This was Gaspar Noe’s follow-up to his controversial film IRREVERSIBLE, which told the story of a woman’s rape and its aftermath in reverse. In a related story, Gaspar Noe is kind of a weird dude.

On Netflix
WILD IN THE STREETS (1968)
Directed by Barry Shear
Free for streaming plan members

One of the wackiest movies ever to come from the American movie industry involves the machinations of a rock star, Max Frost (Christopher Jones) who inspires his teenage audience to political activism with his socially conscious songs about war and violence. Max hooks up with an idealistic Senate candidate (Hal Holbrook, suggesting a hilariously bizarre origin story for ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN’s Deep Throat) in order to lower the voting age in America to 14 and give teenagers more power. Max’s movement takes off, and eventually sweeps the candidate into office — and later Max into the Presidency of the United States. But a rock star becoming President is only, like, the fourth weirdest thing in this movie, because shortly thereafter Max Frost’s government starts spiking the national water supply with LSD and rounding up everyone over 35 and shoving them in “reeducation camps.” Like I said, one of the wackiest movies ever. WILD doesn’t cover half of it.

On Amazon Instant Video
THE TRIP (1967)
Directed by Roger Corman
$2.99 to rent, $9.99 to purchase

If you want to make a movie about what it’s like to be on LSD, you should probably know what it’s like to be on LSD, right? That was the thinking that guided Roger Corman, exploitation-meister and fairly square dude, to try acid before he directed Jack Nicholson’s — yep that Jack Nicholson’s — screenplay for THE TRIP, the story of a recently divorced man experimenting with LSD for the very first time. The psychedelic imagery includes kaleidoscopic visuals, men in robes thundering through the woods on horseback, and bodies lit on fire (ladies and gentlemen: the ’60s!). Ironically, Corman’s own trip was far more serene and peaceful than the one experienced by the film’s Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), making it less useful as cinematic preparation than he’d intended. As for Nicholson, Fonda, and co-star Dennis Hopper — who would all soon reunite for EASY RIDER — they, uh, they didn’t need to do quite as much research.

On YouTube
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998)
Directed by Terry Gilliam
$2.99 to stream

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” Those are the opening lines of Hunter S. Thompson’s watershed work of gonzo journalism, and the first words spoken by Johnny Depp as Thompson (a.k.a. Raoul Duke) in Terry Gilliam’s lysergic adaptation of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. Sure enough, pretty quickly the sky above Duke and his attorney’s (Benicio Del Toro) car fill with giant bats that recall Ralph Steadman’s whacked out illustrations from Thompson’s book; that’s about as calm as things get for the next 120 minutes on Duke’s whirlwind tour of Las Vegas during a motorcycle race. Gilliam’s film is a faithful translation of Thompson’s prose and his fucked-up state-of-mind. I’ve never taken hard drugs, in part because after getting royally gonked in the head by this movie, I felt like I didn’t need to.

On iTunes
ALTERED STATES (1980)
Directed by Ken Russell
$2.99 to rent, $9.99 to purchase

In ALTERED STATES, William Hurt plays Professor Edward Jessup, who is allegedly mixing sensory deprivation tanks and hallucinogenic drugs to study their therapeutic value in the treatment of mental illness. Either that, or he found a brilliant excuse to get high all the time. Regardless, Jessup makes his way to Mexico, where an indigenous tribe gives him some sort of magical mushroom potion that cranks his experiments up to 11. Now Jessup doesn’t just dream of the dawn of man; he actually physically devolves into some sort of primitive ape creature. And can you believe it’s based on a true story, too?!? You can’t? Well, that’s probably because it’s not — the film was actually based on a novel and screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky (NETWORK), who later took his name off the finished film because it was not happy with the results. What’s not to like? William Hurt turns into a monkey man! So remember, kids: don’t do drugs. Unless you want to turn into a monkey like William Hurt. In which case, you should totally use drugs.