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  American Hippie in Israel, An So Much For Utopia
Year: 1972
Director: Amos Sefer
Stars: Asher Tzarfati, Shmuel Wolf, Lily Avidan, Tzila Karney
Genre: Drama, Weirdo, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mike (Asher Tzarfati) has been travelling around Europe since escaping his native America, and has now flown in to an Israeli airport to investigate the country, not having much more in the way of plans than that to occupy his mind. He leaves the airport and commences a walk along the verge of the nearest road, hoping someone will pick him up, but he is disappointed in that respect, until he is sat in a layby with his luggage almost giving up hope and a big white car pulls up. Mike climbs in and introduces himself to Elizabeth (Lily Avidan) who tells him she is an actress, and as they get to talking she is so taken with this dropout she brings him back to her home..

Some films you can call a product of their time, well, most films you can call that but the select few are especially anchored in their era, and Ha-Trempist, renamed An American Hippie in Israel, was one of the most obvious examples as there were few other years this could have been manufactured than hippie hangover 1972. The only released work of its director Amos Sefer as far as the international community were concerned, in its native Israel this was considered lost until the mid '00s when it was unexpectedly rediscovered and even more unexpectedly transformed into that country's equivalent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or The Room if you were wanting a more recent instance.

That this became a midnight movie hit, screened every month for years in Tel Aviv, was oddly gratifying but as could be the case with these live audience-based cult items, watching it cold without the catcalls could be an experience somewhat lacking the same appeal. To that audience's credit, they were describing this as one of the worst movies ever made and possibly the worst Israeli film of all time, though that camp attraction can often be the basis for much ironic adulation, as was the case here. To hear the "fans" speak of it, this was a weirdo laff riot on a par with Plan 9 from Outer Space, yet you could be forgiven on actually giving it a watch to find it was neither weird nor hilarious enough. But that's not to say the film was entirely lacking these qualities.

There was a dream/trip sequence like no other, for a start. It was clear, if not much else was, that Sefer had something important to say to us, and that was a finger-wagging parable set in modern - for 1972 - times as the ideals of Mike and the easily impressed Elizabeth flounder in the face of cold human nature. Within minutes of the couple arriving back at her house, he has launched into a rant about his nightmares of fighting in the Vietnam War, then launched into Elizabeth herself for some very visible tan line-afflicted nudity. Now inseparable - she tells him she is between jobs, so can evidently drop everything at short notice - they head off for some idealised hippie idyll, though there has been a stormcloud on the horizon thanks to a couple of blokes in black suits, top hats and silver-painted faces.

Some describe them as mimes, but they're not miming when Mike and Elizabeth are grooving to what sounds like elevator muzak (by Nachum Heiman) with a newfound community of young folks he has inspired to start society afresh, and the undertaker-alikes burst in and mow down the assembled with machine guns. All except our hero and heroine, and their two new pals, the very strange-looking Shmuel Wolf who speaks no English (save an impassioned "Wonderful feeling!" every so often) and his girlfriend (Tzila Karney). One thing leads to another, and after driving through what looks like a sunkissed lunar landscape they settle on an island to build their utopian dream. All that's missing is a klaxon and the word "MESSAGE" appearing on the screen as their dreams come to naught, because Sefer had little faith in even his most peace-loving fellow man (and woman) to get their act together: the hippie optimism blinds them to the practicalities of living, which does come across as if he was massively disillusioned partway through making the movie. Maybe worth it for the rubber sharks.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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