As I try watching Gold through the eyes of a hippie or a square in 1969 - as opposed to the jaded 21st Century aesthete that I am - I still can't help wondering what kind of thing I'd need to be on to not only truly enjoy it, but to tolerate it at all. Uppers, downers, speed, coke, bennies, reds, 'ludes, 'shrooms, pot, acid, mary jane, sugar cubes, banana peels, grass, weed, cross-tops, hooch, dope, LSD, smack ...
Without such a life-ending pharmacopoeia coursing through my veins, I'm left to taxing my appreciation of unintentional camp to make it through. It's a living, right? However, I'm pretty sure no amount of intoxicants can enliven or justify this ride. No offense, but Gold's "let's make a movie!" film-school excesses surely didn't play well then, and 40-plus years in the future, only nostalgia and curiosity can ease the painful fact that there was clearly a reason that this became a 'lost' film.
At any rate, despite filmmaker Bob Levis' comedic aspirations, it's clear he has an agenda. It's probably the top-loaded inclusion of pictures of naked, dead Vietnamese babies during the otherwise lilting credits sequence that tips us off to this fact. Fight the man, right? Down with Imperialist oppression! Yet by movie's end, the only talking point I'm finding is the inevitable conclusion that wallowing naked in the mud with a bunch of hairy hippie chicks is a good, God-given right.
Levis goes about cementing his treatise with an ostensibly time-shifting tale of a group of Wild West longhairs starting their own little town dedicated to the pursuit of free, naked love in the mud, preferably with as many people as possible. The group is assisted by a '60s go-go girl, plagued by a '40s-style G-Man intent on enforcing the law, and shadowed by a mysterious comic-relief/revolutionary character who apparently took acting lessons from Hunter Thompson. There's really not much more to it than that, and this lack of real plot is hindered further by frequent chaotic interludes accompanied by excruciating acid rock. Because of these numerous deficiencies, I'll refer to my opening paragraph to reiterate that I highly doubt Gold was tolerable when it was first released, even when screened to its target audience (which was probably naked and fornicating in a nearby mud puddle anyway).
You'd think I'm a 70-year-old arch conservative, but I'm not. Free love is great, and prohibition just creates other problems, in my opinion. Yes, I prefer the things the Diggers did over those who just wanted to get whacked out and mess with the man, but I guess I'm more of a humanist than anything. At any rate, Levis kind-of tips his pallid hand as his nominal hero asserts, "the law sucks" while stripping naked. Long before this, the movie has degenerated into a series of vignettes featuring the G-Man lurking in the bushes watching various naked hippies cavort, or scenarios wherein the audience is forced to ogle the spectacularly unappealing nude dancing of the go-go girl while acid rock plays, music I'd posit no-one ever liked, due to its oppressive atonality and horrifically aggressive unlistenability - yet nobody ever protested because they were all too fucked up to say anything. Come to think of it, the musicians were probably too fucked up to know what they were doing, so I guess it's a wash.
The point is, if you're going to bring it, bring an agenda that makes sense, and back it up. While you're at it, make an entertaining movie. While films such as Easy Rider and Joe sport sadly nihilistic attitudes, at least they have the good grace to possess linear plots and clear thinking. Yes, Gold is oddly entertaining in a nominal, disturbing and unpleasant way, but it brings little more than forceful aggravation and confusion to the table. Grab your extras-laden DVD, give it an obligatory spin, and then lock it up in the vault for another 40 years, at least.