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Alice's Restaurant
IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 from 3,117 votes
Release: 7 May 1970 (Netherlands) /

Alice's Restaurant

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Director: Arthur Penn,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Arlo Guthrie's song is converted into a motion picture. Arlo goes to see Alice for Thanksgivng and as a favor takes her trash to the dump. When the dump is closed, he drops it on top of another pile of garbage at the bottom of a ravine. When the local sheriff finds out a major manhunt begins. Arlo manages to survive the courtroom experience but it haunts him when he is to be inducted into the army via the draft. The movie follows the song with Arlo's voice over as both music and narration. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

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Critic Reviews

As most students of 1960s filmmaking are aware, "Alice's Restaurant" was director Arthur Penn's unsuccessful follow-up to "Bonnie and Clyde." It was based on -- or rather inspired by -- a good idea: Arlo Guthrie's famous autobiographical song, which told the humorous and ironic tale of two run-ins with the "establishment," as we used to say, during a Thanksgiving in Stockbridge, Mass., and a subsequent draft board examination in New York City.

Thirty-three long years later, seeing this cultural artifact from the late '60s is less like watching a story unfold than stepping into a time machine. The good, bad and tragic aspects of that turbulent era are all represented here, and the past -- as observed from our tainted and narcissistic age of SUVs, AIDS and the Internet -- seems positively innocent. And -- with a few obvious exceptions -- idyllic.

The 1960s may have been a tumultuous era, but those years embodied one crucial concept sorely missing from today's society: youthful idealism. Way back when -- before a six-figure salary became the college student's holy grail, when saving the world was more important than earning a law degree -- young people were actually passionate -- about freedom, about peace, about the long- term prospects for humanity. If that passion has not completely vanished, it has certainly been redirected -- and not, in my view, toward a positive or productive end.

Whether Penn's film works or not as a cinematic adaptation of Guthrie's song, whether it successfully mixes deadpan humor (hippies vs. bureaucratic clods) with tragedy (the dark side of drug use) seems almost irrelevant now. The movie succeeds in capturing a remarkable moment in time, a short period when the future may have been uncertain, but there was still a brilliant ray of sunshine at the end of the tunnel -- and a youthful force propelling us toward it.

The hippie movement may have been naive, but it was a movement nonetheless, and a positive form of rebellion. As seen in the film, young people often used the word "peace" instead of "goodbye" -- not just as a pleasant sentiment at the end of a conversation, but as a serious reminder of what was important -- that nothing was more vital than global, harmonious accord, to "live as one." That spirit may have died with John Lennon; it may have left this Earth with Jerry Garcia. In any case, it's pretty much gone now, and already -- except, perhaps, within a few small, nostalgic circles -- nearly forgotten.

Today, the concepts of "peace" and "love" seem hopelessly quaint. The era of Flower Power has long since passed, and most young people would readily agree that All You Need is Cash -- the majority of them knowing infinitely more about money markets than peaceful coexistence. Teenagers who once joined together to enjoy music, freedom and a sense of community (Woodstock) have been replaced by a disenfranchised generation who angrily rape, steal and burn (Woodstock '99). Somewhere along the line, the hopeful enthusiasm of folk music and rock'n'roll gave way to the fury of punk, rap and hip-hop. Freeform artistic expression (Prog-Rock, Pop Art, tie-died clothes, experimental filmmaking) was discarded in favor of nihilism and self-mutilation (Industrial/ Goth-Rock, Heavy Metal, piercings and tattoos). The ray of hope faded. "Make Love, Not War" degenerated into "Show Us Your Tits." The "us" decade ('60s) became the "me" decade ('70s). And now -- God help us -- we are firmly entrenched in what surely would've made the founding fathers wish they'd never been born: the"whatever" century.

This apathetic new millenium has ushered in not a glorious Odyssey of space exploration or a Brave New World of modern medicine -- but terrorism, fear, ignorance and intolerance. Politically, Ashcroft's medical marijuana raids and "President" Bush's environmental atrocities likely cause even die-hard liberals to fondly recall the days of Tricky Dick! Who could have ever imagined?!

And so "Alice's Restaurant" is another tragic arrow through our empty, modern- day heart -- a damning reminder of just how low this country has sunk, how far a nation of bloodless, soulless opportunists has strayed from the garden. Think of it! Once, this country poured its life blood into electing leaders who would end war and famine; now, we waste millions trying to impeach them for receiving blow jobs.

Jim Morrison was 35 years ahead of his time. The '60s -- in retrospect -- was the beginning. And this, now, is the end.

Peace.

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