Saturday, July 12, 2014

Head (1968 film)

Directed by Bob Rafelson and written by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, Head is an off-the-wall film where the pop group the Monkees encounter elements of surrealism as they spoof on themselves. A mish-mash of various genres with political overtones of the late 1960s, the film is an antithesis of the TV show the pop group starred in where it doesn’t play into the comical sensibilities that made them popular. Featuring appearances from Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, Victor Mature, Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson, and Timothy Carey. Head is a strange yet exhilarating film from Bob Rafelson and the Monkees.

The film is about the Monkees trying to dismantle their teen-pop image in this crazed, psychedelic-inspired film where a lot happens and nothing really makes sense. All of which involve the Monkees in an array of strange sequences where the fourth wall, at times, gets broken as they’re making a film where they often struggle with what they’re doing. The film’s screenplay by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson has this sense of improvisation where it is clear that they’re making things up as they went along. That sense of improvisation has the Monkees play out fantasies of war and parties along with individual moments to showcase what Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork would want. There’s also cameos that get added into the story as some of these people like Frank Zappa appear to guide them but often into strange directions.

Rafelson’s direction starts and ends with this very dizzying sequence of the band jumping off a bridge that would lead to these psychedelic-drenched images with the music of the Monkees playing in the background. Rafelson would create some unique compositions while having the Monkees play out fantasies in war films, Westerns, silent comedy, and a musical along with a live performance of the band to showcase the hysteria they had caused in their hey-day. Though some of these moments are essentially a product of its time as it is set during a turbulent period of the 1960s such as the Vietnam War. Some of the humor in the film that Rafelson presents is either ironic or very dark as it plays into the Monkees struggling with their image as well as their identity and a gigantic Victor Mature. Overall, Rafelson creates a messy yet very enjoyable film about the Monkees going into a strange adventure.

Cinematographer Michel Hugo does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography with its array of psychedelic lights for some of the parties scenes along with some unique lighting for some scenes inside the box plus some photographic effects in the psychedelic moments. Editor Mike Pozen, with additional work from Monte Hellman, is brilliant for its very stylized approach to rhythms with some fast-cuts, dissolves, dizzying montages, and jump-cuts to play into the film‘s chaotic tone. Art director Sydney Z. Litwack and set decorator Ned Parsons do amazing work with the set pieces such as the box as well as some of the fake sets that plays into the craziness the Monkees encounter. Sound editor James M. Falkinburg does terrific work with the film‘s sound to play into some of the chaos the Monkees encounter as well as the moments that goes on during the filming. The film’s music score by Ken Thorne is mostly comical with its mix of jazz and orchestral pieces while much of the music is made by the Monkees as it features a snarky rendition of their theme song plus original tunes that is written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, and band members Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork.

The film’s cast is fun to watch as it features appearances from boxing champion Sonny Liston, Frank Zappa as a critic, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson as directors, Teri Garr as a character in a western piece, June Fairchild as a woman threatening to jump, Annette Funicello as a love interest for a film Davy is working on, Toni Basil as a dancer in the Daddy’s Song sequence as she’s also the film’s choreographer, Logan Ramsey as a police officer, Timothy Carey as a tall man who antagonizes the Monkees, and Victor Mature as himself who proves to be a great threat to the Monkees. Finally, there’s the Monkees as themselves as Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork bring a lot of off-the-wall humor into their characters as well as deal with the situations they’re in though it sort of pales to the more comical work they did in the TV show.

Head is an excellent film from Bob Rafelson and the Monkees. While it’s a film that is odd and nonsensical at times, it’s also quite funny and refuses to take itself so seriously. While it might be a product of its time, it is still an important film as it would plant the seeds of what is to come from the next decade for American cinema. Fans of the Monkees might be put off by some of the psychedelic aspects and its lack of plot though there is enough music and wit that will entertain them. In the end, Head is an extraordinarily weird yet fun film from Bob Rafelson.

Bob Rafelson Films: (Five Easy Pieces) - The King of Marvin Gardens - (Stay Hungry) - (The Postman Always Stay Twice (1981 film)) - (Black Widow) - (Mountains on the Moon) - (Man Trouble) - (Blood and Wine) - (Poodle Springs) - (No Good Deed)

© thevoid99 2014


TheVern said...

It's indeed quite the "Head" trip. no pun intended. Agree that is is a part of the time, and yet I found it very enjoyable. It doesnt make a lot of sense, but I admire the Monkeys in wanting to change thier image Great review

thevoid99 said...

It is a pretty enjoyable film. It didn't need to make any sense. Though it didn't really do much to change the Monkees' image but I think the band doesn't get enough credit for their contributions to pop music. They should be in the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.