“Gimme Shelter” shows Feb. 19.
Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia runs Feb. 8 to May 21 at BAMPFA.
BAMPFA’s ambitious survey of the art, design, and influence of the counterculture, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (on view Feb. 8 through May 21), is an overdue response to the decades-long campaign to trivialize and debase an important social movement. Youth culture achieved peak expression and defiance during the Vietnam War-era ’60s and ’70s, and the freedom and anger of that era still rattles some people—and inspires others.
The films accompanying the exhibition evoke the various moods and volatile emotions of those heady days. The otherworldly avant-garde shorts of pioneering San Francisco filmmaker Jordan Belson (screening Feb. 7 as part of the free public preview) use abstract imagery to access deeper levels of consciousness. The communal power of rock ’n’ roll—a fundamental value of the counterculture—is showcased from two very different vantage points, the joyful celebration of Monterey Pop (Feb. 8) and the hardball business negotiations (conducted by SF attorney Melvin Belli) leading up to the shockingly violent Jefferson Airplane-Rolling Stones show captured in Gimme Shelter (Feb. 19). A couple years before the real world crashed the concert at Altamont Speedway, cinematographer Haskell Wexler let the real protests of the Democratic convention in Chicago into the frame to catalyze the fictional love story of Medium Cool (Feb. 11 and 12). The Vietnam War inspired those demonstrations, as well as Emile De Antonio’s scathing, scintillating antiwar documentary, In the Year of the Pig (Feb. 15).
If you weren’t there, the hallmark was participation—it was a people’s revolution. If you were there, dig up your amateur films and photos and bring ’em to Hippie Modernism Home Movie & Family Album Day (Feb. 18). What’s past is prologue.
Hippie Modernism: Cinema and Culture, 1964-1974, Feb. 7-May 13, BAMPFA, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808, BAMPFA.org.
This report appears in the February edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on Feb. 2, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.