It is not often that I go this blind into a film, but I had heard that An American Hippie in Israel was something unbelievable. I guess, I just wanted to believe it was as crazy as I’d heard. I wanted to be surprised. I’m not sure if surprised is the right word, but unbelievable certainly is the wrong word to describe this film. Unbearable is a far better word. Perhaps, unbelievably-unbearable is the right combination of words or perhaps there are just no words in the English language to properly explain the anguish I endured while watching An American Hippie in Israel.
Maybe there is an Israeli word that adequately describes the mind-numbing experience of this film. Now, I’ve seen bad movies. I’ve seen boring movies. I’ve seen movies by Matthew Samuel Smith. Nothing prepared me for An American Hippie in Israel. Well, except maybe Hoodlums.
There are vast stretches of this film where nothing happens and its not that good kinda nothing. It’s not Antonioni or Akerman nothing. Sure, this film would like to imagine itself as some sort of existential exploration, but it’s more exploitation than existential. Yet, it’s not even interesting exploitation. It’s just maddening. It’s the kinda film you just want to scream at and with this huge pregnant pauses and scenes that extend well past the point of necessary, screaming at the screen is what I did.
Well, it turns out I’m not alone. After watching – or I should say enduring- this movie I listened to Mike White’s Projection Booth podcast about An American Hippie in Israel. I needed answers. I needed to understand. I needed to know why anyone would recommend that someone suffer through this film. What I learned was that over in Israel, this movie is like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For two years, dedicated fans and curious masochists have gotten together to watch and heckle this picture. Hearing how these screenings are interactive, even performative and listening to all the choice lines from the movie condensed down, with that insanely lengthy gaps of dead space removed from the soundtrack, I was convinced that this film is amazing. There truly is some choice dialog in this film. It’s just surrounded by acres of nothing.
Yes, rarely do I have such marked transformations, so quickly, about a film. I suppose that goes to show what a little education will do for you. I am not really sorry that I went into my viewing so ignorant. I feel bad for the other fellow who was subjected to watching this with me. Still, we wear our experience like a scar. It was a feat of strength to get through this film. I imagine it is not so bad in a theater, under the influence, surrounded by like minded individuals who all know what to expect from this film, and feel free to share their frustration and humor with one another. That is certainly the only way I’d watch this again. I will however be quoting it for the rest of my free life.