Tuesday, November 5, 2019

DIDN'T YOU HEAR...

Directed by Skip Sherwood
A.N.E Home Video VHS

THE FILM
When I reviewed The Force On Thunder Mountain, I wondered who the film was made for. Well, the same company “presents” Didn’t You Hear… (American National Enterprises) and I would like to ask the same question. I’ve watched it four times and every time I watch with fascination but steadily failing interest as I approach the inevitable (in some ways) end and then think “Who is this for?” (Of course, it doesn’t need to be “for” anyone but it’s fun to think about. For example, who is The Last Slumber Party for? Answer: Me.)

Kevin is a college freshman. He’s got a beefy Gary Busey-like friend named James (played by Gary Busey). Kevin seems like a regular college kid to me. He’s a bit overwhelmed, a bit awkward with the ladies and not quite sure what place his parents now hold in his life. He is also loaded with “philosophical thoughts” about the world around him. So, in essence, from the little we see of his actual life, he’s like almost every college kid around, discounting those who are there on athletic scholarships. In college, I was pretty good around the ladies. Apart from that, I was very much like Kevin.

Kevin keeps disappearing into his daydreams. A very complex world, ish. In this place, he and his friends travel in a boat called The Queen of Sheba, of which Kevin is the Captain. They play “games”, they question the System, they spout various philosophies and burn their possessions. When Kevin gets mixed up in a real life sorority prank, the gal in the prank, Paige, becomes part of the dreamland. We spend a lot of time in this waking dream, most of it actually. Eventually, because the Sheba crew is young and doing their own thing, a group of square “Islanders”, led by Paige’s military man dad, come after them with guns to bring them down and/or harsh their buzz.

It’s a very interesting movie, filled with psychedelic effects and wonderful synths and a lot of chatter about life and death. Some of it doesn’t quite make sense. But, it’s all pretty fascinating. The filmmakers were clearly up to something. It seems that they are saying “Young people have their own way of doing things. The squares shouldn’t get in their way.” A good way to think of the Sheba crew is as variations of a biker gang but without as much facial hair.

The film has one flaw that I think gets in the way of what it’s up to. Now, it started as a feeling that nagged me but I couldn’t pin down. It’s not the slightly embarrassing “Happy Birthday World Day” bit. It’s not the moments when the film seems to be going somewhere and then slows way down. It’s not the over explained “symbolic” moments. As far as I’m concerned, if this is all in the mind of a young man, than there will be pretentious and awkward bits. That’s just how we are. Love us or leave us, baby.

Out of that last thought springs the problem: Even the trailer describes this as a “symbolic” film…but I’m not sure it is. Yes, the filmmakers may have planned it that way but something shanghais it. The bulk of the film is the daydream of an awkward college kid. It’s not a Bergman-esque journey through the Symbols of Mankind. It’s the brain wanderings of a slightly goofy young adult. Daydreams are daydreams. They are extended fantasies in your head that you keep control over, unlike dreams. Now, he may be actually dreaming some of this but whenever we enter the other world…he is awake and thinking. So, this isn’t a Series of Universal Symbols being laid out for all mankind. It’s an awkward kid passing time in his mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin was a writer who was just thinking up this idea for a script or a novel. The filmmakers didn’t seem to have the courage of their convictions. They should have done a full on “Symbolic Film”. As it stands, we don’t see enough of Kevin’s real world to be able to draw all the parallels we need between it and the Land of the Queen of Sheba. I think that would have made for a richer experience. As it stands, the sum of the parts make up a weak whole. Luckily, the parts are pretty darn interesting. If it doesn’t completely hang together in the end, you can, at least, enjoy the journey. Maybe that’s the point.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
The synths sound fine. The picture is horrible. But, this is the only way we can see it, so take it all in.

EXTRAS
Five trailers for films put out by A.N.E. The Invincible Barbarian, Didn’t You Hear, Hooch, and two others.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I think the film needs to be watched. We can blab about it when everyone has seen it. It is a flawed film with a story that’s a little vaguer than it should be. But, it is a one-of-a-kind film. It’s rather fascinating and full of ideas, some better than others. Enjoy it.
03/18/10

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