Wednesday, 26 August 2015

HWY: An American Pastoral

I've been listening to The Doors for the last few days, prompted by a scathing review of the American Prayer album in an old Q magazine, included as part of a 50 Rock Follies list. Undeserved of course, but no matter, the article has me revisiting the albums, and from there I took a slight detour to catch HWY: An American Pastoral, from 1969, a 35mm experimental film directed by Jim Morrison and some friends and starring Morrison himself as a hitchhiker who emerges out of the wilderness around Palm Springs and Joshua Tree and makes his way into downtown Los Angeles, where he rings a friend (poet Michael McClure) and confesses to killing the driver of the car he drove earlier in the film...

HWY is not quite an hour of magic, at 52mins it contains far too many longueurs as if co-director Paul Ferrara was too much in love with his footage to discard any of it, (in fairness, all accounts suggest the film was a demonstration piece to raise funds for a more substantial work), but there is at least one great moment, when Morrison comes across a fatally injured coyote on the highway and later lets out a scream of pain and rage in sympathy with the stricken animal's final death throes. It's interesting to speculate on whether HWY: An American Pastoral was some attempt to shrug off his rock star image, and slip into acting, the film features no music by The Doors and instead has a very decent number by Paul Ferrara and his then wife entitled Bald Mountain and there's some effective tape manipulations and a musique concrète collage of tribal music, gamelan music, snatches of Sinatra, a preacher in full flight and some film dialogue. The film is currently unavailable thru officially channels, but a lo-fi timecoded copy of the film is on youtube. Portions of the film appeared in Tom DiCillo's documentary When You're Strange, in stellar quality no less so hopefully the film might be granted a fitting release one of the days. For now, hitch a lift here

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