From Italian farce to Afrofuturism odyssey to Freudian horror humor, this list of forgotten movies filled with music lets you choose your adventure.
Burned out Fancy and The wall? Sure, there’s something heartwarming about the classics, but if you’re tired of the same backdrop for your annual, quarterly, nightly (nonjudgmental) trip, here are some esoteric, profound, and ridiculous alternative options.
With the power to captivate, bewitch or horrify, movies can strongly influence the emotional state of your journey. Some movies can be a bit over the top to trip over, like Modified States for some people. Others, however, can provide the right combination of joy and visual and audio stimulation for an impactful and fun experience.
A word of advice: make your choice according to the setting that seems most pleasant to you.
(These movies are also totally enjoyable and trippy when paired with tea or popcorn instead of psychedelics..)
Space is Place (1974)
For decades Space is the place was more of a myth than a fact. It was never officially released in cinemas and spread only through the passage of its very rare existing VHS tapes. However, the magnum opus of Sun Ra – composer, keyboardist, philosopher, poet and self-proclaimed Saturn alien – has now found its target audience in 21st century psychonauts.
During the 1900s, Ra, formerly Herman Blout, recorded over 200 albums with his Arkestra, who, dressed in Egyptian-space suits, performed everything from boogie-woogie to swing to free jazz. A musical and philosophical polymath, Sun Ra is one of the greatest avant-garde artists and intellectuals of the 20th century.
Filmed languidly until 1972, Space is the place, a documentary project on Ra, transformed into the unexpected (like many of Sun Ra’s compositions). Eventually, filmmaker Jim Newman (who had no idea he was about to produce the most radical Afro-futurist blaxploitation movie of all time) brought in Joshua Smith to develop a screenplay heavily influenced by Ra.
The final result ? An unbridled tale of Sun Ra engaged in a cosmic card game with a pimp-like overseer where the fate of black people hangs in the balance. Spoiler alert: Ra wins the contest and the space of his Arkestra slips into the cosmos, leaving the earth behind to deal with its cruel fate.
broadcast on: Youtube
Sturgill Simpson’s sound and fury (2019)
Outlaw psychonaut Sturgill Simpson’s fourth studio album is another left-wing artistic twist. Featuring songs such as “Best Clockmaker on Mars” and “Make Art Not Friends”, the album-anime hybrid is scuzzy, cheesy synth-rock in protest against the master of all country musicians – Nashville. Streaming on Netflix, the accompanying music video for the album of the same name (sound and fury) is a mesmerizing 41-minute cyberpunk samurai anime seemingly designed for entheogenesis-induced introspection.
Sit back and follow the punk samurai protagonist as they attempt to overthrow a Mad Max-style overlord and topple a corporate empire. After all, the visuals, music, and anti-capitalist overtones all make for a great trip.
Steam cooking on: netflix
Koyaanisqatsi is an 80-minute visual essay on the state of American civilization that is both spellbinding and infuriating, quirky and entertaining. The film’s title comes from a Hopi Indian word which, according to the film’s director Godfrey Reggio, means “unbalanced life” – and crooked existence is exactly what Koyaanisqatsi intends to dramatize. Opening with images suggesting the creation of the earth from flames and moving through long, lyrical passages complete with splendid aerial shots and an eerie musical score, Koyaanisqatsi is ideal for psychonauts who want to think deeply about our place as humans in the world.
Or as Reggio himself put it in a 2002 interview included with the special DVD: “It’s meant to offer an experience, rather than an idea…for some people, it’s an environmental film.” For some, it’s an ode to technology. For some people, that’s crap. Or it deeply moves people. It depends who you ask. The goal is the journey.
broadcast on: Amazon Video
Allegro non troppo (1976)
Allegro Non Troppo is an Italian parody of every adult’s favorite Disney movie: Fantasia.
Far more sexual than anything Disney has ever dared to do and directed by Bruno Bozzetto, the parody features six segments of classical music colored for animation and evoking every emotion, from joy to deep tragedy. In its 75 minutes of heartbreak and humor, an aging satyr tries to regain his lost youth, a bee suffers a mealtime interruption from two lovers, and the myth of Adam and Eve is taken up in detail that is both absurd and deep. Between two cartoon segments, a frustrated filmmaker (Maurizio Nichetti) struggles to complete his life’s work.
Filled with both introspective and absurd interludes and, of course, incredible visuals, Allegro Non Troppo expands beyond parody to become an excellent standalone film.
Broadcast on: Youtube
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
This film is the forgotten creative endeavor and only film by children’s book author and known racist, Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss). Telling the story of an all-American boy trapped in the clutches of villainous Dr. Terwilliker – whose music academy lures young boys to practice piano on an absurdly oversized piano, assembly line style, until ‘to their last breath -– The 5000 fingers of Dr. T is a Freudian fever dream.
Filled with surreal landscapes and twisted rhymes, 5,000 fingers was intended to be a fantastic lark for children. However, if you are in the frame of mind to analyze and reflect, you will find that the underlying political currents form the skeletal basis of the story. An elaborate metaphor, the storyline of an ally (the young boy) propagated by an evil authoritarian (Dr. T) certainly has some Cold War-era paranoia.
If you like the weird and the quirky, the thoughtless and the ghastly, find a copy of The 5000 fingers of Dr. T AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
Buy on: Amazon
Head is the visual accompaniment to the Monkees album of the same name. Written by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, Head was designed to break the Monkees’ halo of sweet, fluffy tweens you can take home to bake cookies with your mom. How? By having them jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and into a surreal, plotless, circular piece of psychedelic and sometimes very funny fluff.
The film also highlights the often overlooked satire and protest in their music. In its boldest display, footage of Nguyễn Văn Lém’s execution is intercut with screaming girls and the band leading the crowd in chants of “WAR!” as ‘Circle Sky’ aggressively scrapes in the background.
Get comfortable, sit back and enjoy the authentic, sometimes profound, Monkees madness like you’ve never experienced it before.
Broadcast on: Youtube
What’s the weirdest movie you’ve ever been to? Let us know in the comments!