New to VOD via Microsoft this week:
William A Kirkley
BFI London, Newport Beach, Maui, San Sebastian, Athens, SF DocFest
The story of 1960s Southern Californian drug culture via the recollections of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the biggest smugglers of LSD and hash of the time.
Kirkley’s sprawling film focuses on several of the founding members of the Brotherhood, particularly Johnny Griggs and his wife Carol. After an encounter with LSD connected Griggs to a sense of the divine, he felt emboldened to turn on the entire world, abandoned his typical suburban existence, and began to indoctrinate friends. After he drugged the initially resistant Carol’s orange juice, she too was along for the ride, and the newly formed community fell into becoming the biggest suppliers of LSD in the country. Once the substance was deemed illegal, they formed a church to try to protect themselves and to spread their message of enlightenment, moving to Laguna Beach and forming the Mystic Arts World psychedelic emporium, a sort of Southern Californian Haight Ashbury. Timothy Leary joined their group, finding a kindred spirit in Griggs, but as their notoriety grew, they became the target of surveillance, eventually leading several members to live on the run under assumed identities before the law finally caught up to them. Kirkley maintains a loose tone throughout, and while this matches the subjects’ freewheeling utopian mission, it also leads to a sense of anecdotal excess at times in what otherwise is a generally entertaining tale.