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Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place


Stars: Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Stanley Tucci

Director: Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood

Another week, another independent film hallowed by Sundance selection.

This self-consciously anarchic blast from the past (the original 16 mm footage was shot in 1964, never finished and had remained virtually unseen prior to being and ‘reassembled’ by directors Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood.

How modern audiences whose only ‘exposure’ to the drug fuelled 1960s is most probably limited to believing the self-indulgent excesses of ‘Easy Rider’ will take this story of a LSD and liquor-fuelled odyssey across the United States from California to New York and the World Fair in 1964 is anyone’s guess.

The protagonists here are Ken Kesey, celebrated as the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest who, joined by the “renegade group of counter culture truth-seekers", including Neal Cassidy, immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, drove their psychedelic Magic Bus across country intending to make a documentary of their trip. And ‘trip’ in the truest sense of all-American drug and drink taking it certainly turned out to be, ingeniously resurrected and commented upon by Gibney and Ellwood. Documentaries about egos rampant are usually good value. This is one such offering. And, providing you go with the flow of a long-ago age, it offers something of a high.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Nov 2011