As filmed, the regressive acting out suggests an artless version of Jack Smith's slightly earlier Normal Love, which features extravagantly costumed and casually naked behavior en plein air. Here we see the Pranksters off the road and ripped on acid, skinny-dipping in the muck, inventing tie-dye (you are there!), and tootling their instruments kindergarten-style. It's one thing to read about a driver who, according to Stone, "could roll a joint while backing a 1937 Packard onto the lip of the Grand Canyon"; it's another to watch motor-mouthed Cassady in action, spinning the wheel while ignoring the road. As vivid as Wolfe's descriptions are, it's astonishing to see the Prankster bus, festooned with American flags and a banner reading, "A Vote for Barry Is a Vote for Fun," drive backward through Phoenix.

Gibney and Ellwood have a sense of historical evanescence and inevitability. Kesey's eccentric odyssey was almost instantly recuperated on a mass scale. Thus, Magic Trip provides a mental match cut from the Prankster-mobile to a commercial tour bus exploring the Haight three years later and concludes on a nostalgic note with the inevitable Grateful Dead anthem "Truckin'." What it lacks, perhaps unavoidably, is a sense of the cosmic Now; the movie recovers, without exactly illuminating, a "long, strange trip" that seems all the stranger as it recedes into the past.

'I'll explain later!' Alfonso Pimentel as Pedro in Mysteries of Lisbon
Music Box Films
'I'll explain later!' Alfonso Pimentel as Pedro in Mysteries of Lisbon


Mysteries of Lisbon
Directed by Raul Ruiz
Music Box Films
Opens August 5, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, IFC

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