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An American Hippie in Israel
IMDB Rating: 5.2/10 from votes
Release: 1972 (Israel) /

An American Hippie in Israel

Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Director: Baruch Verthaim,
Stars: , , , , ,
Synopsis: Incited by a disillusioned young man who has decided to flee from civilization, a group of 4 people go searching for freedom and happiness on an isolated island . When their boat goes astray and they are left without food, their animal instincts take over, bringing the film to its catastrophic end. Written by BFI

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Critic Reviews

Very little has been written in English (including on IMDb) about this film that had apparently fallen off the map. Recently, Grindhouse Releasing has acquired prints, with a DVD in the works. HIPPIE has also gone on to become a midnight movie hit in Israel: http://israelity.com/2011/01/09/hippie-sighting-in-israel/

Note: Because the film is so obscure, I have included a much more detailed synopsis of the plot than I normally do. If you want to preserve your innocence about the story, I suggest you skip to the headline - "End of Spoilers" below. But, believe me, the plot synopsis doesn't compare to the experience of watching the film!

************** PLOT SYNOPSIS - SPOILERS **********

AN American HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (aka THE HITCH-HIKER aka RIGHT ON!). A bearded dude named Mike (Asher Tzarfati) from NYC arrives in Israel without any real plans or friends to stay with. He hitches a ride with a free-spirited Israeli theater actress (Lily Avidan). Mike says that he is traveling the world after having served in the evil Vietnam war with all of it's "Button pushers!" They immediately make love and then set out to find other free spirits. In the course of an afternoon they pick up another hippie couple (Tzila Karney and Shmuel Wolf) who, in turn, hook them up with a larger band of free spirits (the male, Wolf, speaks only Hebrew). They go to an abandoned building to sing some folk songs, smoke weed, drink a lot and start screwing - in other words, an idyllic hippie gathering! Now, it must be noted here that a pair of mysterious white-faced mimes with machine guns are following Mike around. They first appear right as he is picked up hitch-hiking. Now, they show up in the abandoned building and gun down and kill everybody except for Mike, the actress and the first couple they hooked up with.

Bummer. But, this little massacre isn't going to stop Mike. The quartet are now off to a desolate island where they will show the world that you can just be free and happy all day in a commune-like atmosphere. Along the way to the coast-line they pick up a goat at a market and Mike drifts off to nap and daydream (he calls it a "flake out"). His daydream turns into a nightmare as he swings a giant hammer to destroy giant reel-to-reel "computers" in slow motion. Only, the camera director Amos Sefer uses was apparently not able to properly achieve the slow motion effect he wanted so Mike "acts" in slow motion as well! That's amusing, but, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until they get to the island!

After stopping to pick up an inflatable raft and some food and booze, the quartet (and the goat!) paddle out to the island, leaving their car on the shore. That night it's a grand party of food, drink, sex and loud proclamations to the world that they are "FREE! FREE! FREE!" They pass out and wake up the next morning only to find that their raft is missing. Frantically, they search the island, but the boat is gone - and so is the goat! Mike says he can swim well, so he'll just swim to shore and get help. Wouldn't you know it, but, there are sharks in the water! The two big plastic sharks are amusing as they re-appear a few times and always at the same depth in the water and the same distance from each other.

Trapped! The island has no vegetation and apparently the water has no fish save for a few crustaceans (and the sharks), so the quartet immediately switches from idyllic heaven mode to outright panic. Soon, it's "Lord of the Flies" time and the four at each other's throats. And, when I say "soon", I mean in a matter of minutes! Not hours or days! The guys literally turn into cavemen, reduced to grunts and groans and they even grab the women by the hair and jerk them around. Then, the goat shows up. Instead, of joining forces to trap the goat for them all to eat, they bash each other with fists and rocks until they are left in a big heaping pile of humanity. Meanwhile, back at the shore, the two Mimes show up, jump into the quartet's car and drive away.

The End.

******** END OF SPOILERS ********************

Now, if all of that seems like a fairly orderly and scripted film, let me assure you it's not. Save for the last 10 or 15 minutes on the island, everything in the film seems only vaguely written. The actual dialogue seems mainly improvised and the scenes of walking around and driving shamble on and on with a folky muzak backing score. Still, I kind of enjoyed the hippie vibe to a certain extent. It plays out somewhat realistically like it would in life with Mike drifting from place to place (he mentions he had been in Europe, including Rome just before coming to Israel). Of course, nobody really enjoys watching someone else's home movies! The bigger issue is just what message Director Sefer is trying to convey. The movie doesn't make Mike a very sympathetic character, but, it does seem to be in accord with his Anti-Vietnam and free spirit attitudes. It's not really a surprise that even in a movie with a somewhat moralistic 'warning' against the hippie ideal, that the movie itself indulges in nudity, sex and drug use, for many a film going back to Cecil B. DeMille's biblical tales have done so (DeMille always got away with more sinful stuff from the censors because of his biblical themes).

Mike's daydream about raging against the machine ("Button-Pushers!") is also echoed in the two Mimes (Robots, perhaps?), who could be interpreted as representing "The Man". But, the whole 'Lord of the Flies' ending, uh, flies in the face of those themes. Heavy, man.

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