Monday, December 12, 2016

Didn’t You Hear . . . (1970)

An obtuse oddity that would be long forgotten had two of its actors not later achieved stardom, Didn’t You Hear . . . began as a student film, then had a brief theatrical release in 1970. (Sources including IMDb list the movie’s vintage as 1983 because that’s when it received a wider release.) Although the picture has certain elements of conventional storytelling, it’s more of an impressionistic experience, like a series of dreams brought to life. In fact, the bulk of the movie comprises an imagined narrative during which the hero, assuming a secondary identity inside a dream, joins his friends in the takeover of an abandoned ship. Periodically, the movie stops dead for a trippy montage featuring double exposures and solarized images, often set to twee folk music, so the guiding aesthetic involves taking viewers beyond the realm of everyday perception. That sort of thing is all well and good conceptually, but drifting further and further from reality often leads inexperienced storytellers into outright nonsense, as is the case here. Director Skip Sherwood and his three screenwriting collaborators unquestionably form a distinctive mood during the movie’s strongest moments, landing somewhere between an acid trip and a nightmare, but the lack of a clear central concept and/or any discernible thematic purpose makes watching the picture frustrating. Broadly, Kevin (Dennis Christopher) is a college kid who feels lost or overwhelmed or something like that. Among his buddies is the rowdy James (Gary Busey). After some humiliating real-world adventures, such as being the target of a sorority-pledge prank, Kevin drifts into a dream state, upon which he and his pals become pirates steering the ship they name The Queen of Sheba. Driven by a weird electronic score, Didn’t You Hear . . . has a few moments the patient viewer can grasp, with Christopher channeling adolescent angst while Busey hoots and hollers about sex, but most of what happens is impenetrable.

Didn’t You Hear . . . : LAME

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