Welcome back to Top Five Tuesday! In celebration of this weekend’s screening of Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (presented in conjunction with Milwaukee Psych Fest - TICKETS STILL ON SALE!), we decided to trip the light fantastic with this week’s list, counting down...
THE TOP FIVE PSYCHEDELIC MOMENTS OF CINEMA!
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
(dir. Stanley Kubrick | UK/USA | 1968)
It would be hard to leave Kubrick’s sci-fi masterwork off this list. His famed stargate sequence brought experimental formal techniques to the mainstream, taking audiences through time and space alongside Dave Bowman, plunging us into the heart of the universe. It’s a transformative sequence for both the character and filmmaking in general!
2. Phase IV
(dir. Saul Bass | UK/USA | 1974)
Moby Dick but with highly evolved ants, Saul Bass’ lone directorial credit ABSOLUTELY RULES. The psychedelic portion of this film was thought lost to the sands of time, as the studio hacked Bass’ ending to bits (perhaps explaining this being his only feature) only for the final five minutes to have been retrieved in 2012. I saw the film with its original ending at the Wisconsin Film Festival many years ago, and I hope we are eventually gifted with a fully restored version of his vision so we can all celebrate this gonzo delight together.
3. Enter the Void
(dir. Gaspar Noé | France/Germany/Italy | 2009)
A lot of people leave Gaspar’s cinematic provocations saying “Noé thank you”, but for me?
No one lights like Gaspar
No one frames like Gaspar
No one achieves their provocative aims like Gaspar
A self-described “psychedelic melodrama”, this loose interpretation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead will leave you on the verge of cinematic exhaustion. You genuinely feel as though you’ve gone on a physical journey by this film’s end, so kinetic is Noe’s filmmaking skills. Mileage may vary (that’s a pretty standard statement w/r/t psychedelic cinema in general!), but one can’t argue the immensity of what is accomplished here.
(Honorable mention to Noe’s latest, Climax, which prominently features its assembled cast descending into madness after their party’s sangria is spiked with LSD. However, the film itself captures their descent into madness at a slight remove, meaning we don’t experience the trip through their eyes.)
4. A Field in England
(dir. Ben Wheatley | UK | 2013)
MFF alum Ben Wheatley has made a career out of genre-busting, description-defying cinema. This black-and-white,17th-century-set treasure hunt slash nightmare is an absolute trip (Pun not intended? Pun intended? Who’s to say – I'm extremely tired.). The centerpiece of the film is this visceral, monochromatic freakout –a sequence that feels like the film folding in on itself like a Mad Magazine cover. Bonus: a thing I like to do is sing this film’s title to the tune of Elton John’s “Made in England”. Feel free to do so!
5. Beyond the Black Rainbow
(dir. Panos Cosmatos | Canada | 2010)
We welcomed Panos’ return to the cult cinema zeitgeist last year with Mandy, but I posit that Beyond the Black Rainbow is every bit its equal! It’s escapist cinema in a literal sense, as we follow a young telekinetic girl’s attempts to break free from the surreal hospital/prison trying to harness her abilities. A little more narratively formless than Mandy, the film takes its time wallowing in the aesthetics, nowhere more obvious than during the attached ‘bad trip’ sequence. Genuinely nightmarish and engrossing, seeing this sequence on the big screen at the Oriental Theatre is one of my absolute favorite Milwaukee Film Fest memories.