Written by: George Pacheco on October 2nd, 2013
BluRay Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
An American Hippie in Israel is a crazed, psychedelic acid trip with a convoluted anti-war; an extremely rare film—even by today’s cult and psychotronic standards—which is receiving the deluxe treatment, courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing.
The film serves as the sole writing and directorial credit of Israeli filmmaker Amos Sefer, and seems to stand as a visual anti-war sentiment from the director; a personal vision which follows American Hippie Mike as he seeks enlightenment and like-minded individuals who share his desire for personal freedom and hedonism. Mike—a self-professed “bum” who is on the run from his memories of the Vietnam War—seems to be a personal manifestation of the director, with the character’s dialog sounding culled from Sefer’s own sentiments and beliefs.
Noble aspirations aside, An American Hippie in Israel is fractured mess of a film. Sefer is ably aided by some truly lovely scenery, yet he offers this labor of love no real direction, instead filling his film with tons of padding, tedious musical sequences and corny, stilted dialog. It must be said, however, that the film’s lead Asher Tzarfati studiously commits to the character of Mike, and delivers all of his lines with a firm sense of conviction and an undeniable likability and charm.
Mike is followed here on his journey by two unnamed, machine gun wielding mimes which presumably represent “The Man” and his iron will to bring Mike and his friends down. These mime characters are a surreal presence in the film, and mix nicely with Mike’s ultra-psychedelic dream sequences of war and violence. Sefer’s film would have benefited from more of these scenes, but An American Hippie in Israel prefers instead to focus on the trials of Mike, his lover and another couple as they attempt to escape society upon a remote island.
The audience has little to chew on during these scenes, other than the admittedly breathtaking natural surroundings…as well as the au natural behavior from the two couples. Meanwhile, the folk rock score of Nachum Heiman—although decent on an instrumental level—annoys more than sooths when it comes to the all-too-frequent hippie sing-along sections. Sefer’s film then becomes a chore; a viewing experience made easier solely through expedient use of the chapter skip option.
Overall, it must be said that viewing An American Hippie in Israel is a unique experience, although not a particularly enjoyable one. Sefer’s film does possess some likable acting and gorgeous locations, yet the subject matter is not maturely handled, nor delivered with enough excitement to make this cinematic rarity really worth the expense Grindhouse has paid to its release.
Speaking of which, Grindhouse Releasing has certainly pulled out all the stops here for their release of An American Hippie in Israel, issued here in a pristine anamorphic widescreen print which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Colors and sound are both great, although it must be said that the bonus 5.1 audio track of the “Beverly Cinema Experience”—which features background crowd , laughter and comments from a theater full of patrons, a la a midnight showing or Mystery Science Theater 3000—is profoundly annoying, and should be avoided.
In addition to the Blu Ray and DVD versions of the film, Grindhouse has also included a third disc of Sefer’s director’s cut, titled The Hitchhiker. This print is considerably more damaged, and features burnt in Hebrew subtitles, as well as more explicit sex scenes. Additionally, more deleted scenes, liner notes and cast interviews with both Asher Tzarfati and Shumel Wolf are included here, serving up more American Hippie than anyone could ever need in one, complete set. Grindhouse’s attention to quality here should be commended, as this is truly the ONLY version of the film fans (or the desperately curious) need ever purchase.