FILM | A TRIBUTE TO ROBERT CARL COHEN’S “MONDO HOLLYWOOD”
INTERDITES EN FRANCE (OH-LA-LA!):
In retrospect, the unwarranted reactions against the film by authoritarians, ranging from the French Commission of Control to the CIA (which labeled it, along with all of Cohen’s other films, as ‘pro-communist’) indicate Mondo Hollywood had struck a nerve — and questioned myths that seemed essential to those who attempted to control our minds. Originally denounced as a ‘bizarre prophecy’ by the critics, today the film reveals itself to be far more prophetic than ‘bizarre.’
THE NEW YORK TIMES: MONDO HOLLYWOOD (2009)
The film takes its title from the series of Mondo shockumentaries that director Gualtiero Jacopetti began in the early ’60s with Mondo Cane.
Zeitgeist. No other documentary film that I’m aware of captures an era and place better than Robert Carl Cohen’s Mondo Hollywood.
Shot in Los Angeles and its environs between 1965 and 1967, Cohen’s “bag” was to let his “characters” (and what characters they are!) voice over their parts, telling us what they’re doing and capturing their thoughts on what “Hollywood” represents to them.
Freaks, peace-niks, anti-communists, (“the pro- and the no-nukers” as Joni Mitchell put it), surfer dudes and chicks, LSD-droppers, Masons, silent film stars, Cohen presents a well-balanced assortment of Hollywoodlanders living their lives in the middle of the “ultra-modern decade.” The various players all give very “good quote.”
As a visual source guide to the swinging mid-60s, this film can’t be beat.
It is also, as the above quote states, prophetic in nature. Somehow, Cohen caught the past (there are plenty of shots of aging film stars, if that’s your bag), the present (oh, how California has always set the pace with trends — in 1965 it was topless waitresses), and the future (Ronald Reagan’s ascendancy in the American political firmament is documented here).
Remastered by Cohen in 2005, the “director’s cut” includes updates on what became of the key figures in his film (a couple went on to play roles in the Manson massacre that might have signified the end of the era of endless optimism portrayed in the film).
All in all, Mondo Hollywood is a trip you won’t want to miss.
For cool open culture documentaries, check out OPEN CULTURE
2010 | New interview with the director:
2007 | Mondo Hollywood :: 40th anniversary interview with the director:
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- 2009/11/12 / 16:26