Sunday, October 21, 2007

Commune DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Retrospective of Hippies’ Free Love Lifestyle at California Ranch Out on DVD

During the hippie movement back in the Sixties, many young people retreated from the cities to the wilderness. Whether visionary or merely naïve, these discontented souls sought to reshape the cultural landscape by creating a utopian society based on free love and shared property.
Commune examines what life was like at one such idealized oasis, Black Bear Ranch located in an abandoned gold mine in Siskiyou County, California. The film is fascinating because it features an abundance of archival footage showing exactly how they lived, and also because many of the original Black Bear members (including actor Peter Coyote) participated in the project, allowing themselves to be interviewed on screen to reflect upon how their lives were subsequently shaped by the unique experience.
This revealing documentary shares that at Black Bear the men were macho and wielded Bowie knives, while the women were very submissive. And in order to prevent the formation of any nuclear families, orgies were the order of the day, and no one was allowed to mate with the same person for more than two nights in a row.
At its peak, 36 adults and 11 children lived there, but in an atmosphere apparently permeated by pain and jealousy. The proverbial bull substance hit the fan, however, when a cult of child worshippers arrived and ugly rumors about pedophilia reached the FBI which launched an investigation.
Sadly, a lot of the Black Bear alumni don’t seem very well-adjusted today, especially the kids raised in an atmosphere which must have been confusing to impressionable young minds. One recounts how her mother handed her over to hippies headed for The Philippines, where she was soon abandoned to be raised in a tree house by a family of aborigines.
Not exactly groovy, or anybody’s idea of nirvana, dude.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sex, expletives, and frequent nudity.
Running time: 78 minutes
Studio: First Run Features
DVD Extras: Black Bear family album and history, extended Peter Coyote interview, secret FBI file on Black Bear Ranch, filmmakers’ biography, original theatrical trailer, trailer gallery and “Uncensored – The Bare Truth of Communal Living” featurette.

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