The title refers to Mike (Asher Tzarfati, Double Team), a Vietnam vet who has spent the last two years traveling across Europe while barefoot, chased from country to country by two mute goons with snappy suits and silver-painted faces, because why not? “I think they want my life,” explains Mike, as if that explains anything.
Landing in Israel, Mike immediately meets Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), a hot-to-trot redhead who gives him a ride and then gives him a ride, if you know what I mean. Post-coitus, the two find seemingly every other hippie in the country and march to a clubhouse to listen to some terrible folk music, get high, make love and plot to live on an island utopia: “We’ll show the world it’s possible to live without violence, without war, without machines and buttons!”
Their dream is shattered by those aforementioned goons who mow down everyone but Mike, Elizabeth and another couple. They quickly snap back, buy a goat, and head to that island to be free from the fist of The Man, cavort naked and not use soap. (En route, Mike has an extended silent dream that depicts, among other things, him taking a giant hammer to people wearing, I dunno, cassette-tape costumes.)
On the rock-strewn paradise, our four free lovers enjoy that things are outtasight, man, until they’re quickly not. Escape back to civilization is made impossible by two (slowly floating) sharks. Says Mike after summing up their situation of having no food or water, “Shit. It’s a really bad scene.”
And who am I to disagree? I’ll give An American Hippie in Israel that it’s unique and unusual. Yet it’s also free-association to the point of boring. The characters are annoying and repellent (not just because one practically can smell their body odor through the screen); their dialogue can — and does — trip itself up into maddening circles.
It strikes me as an odd choice to earn the über-deluxe treatment from Grindhouse Releasing, the otherwise reliable specialty label co-founded by the late Sage Stallone, and responsible for remarkable collector’s editions of horror films like Pieces, Cat in the Brain, The Beyond and Cannibal Holocaust. While certainly obscure, Sefer’s Hippie contains only a few elements — plentiful nudity being one — that qualify it as true “grindhouse” fare. It’s a case of trying to create a cult classic out of something that is not — outside of Tel Aviv, at least.
Still, it arrives as such, in a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD set with all the bells and whistles for which Grindhouse Releasing is known (and sadly have become an endangered species in this era of ever-increasing digital downloads). As one of the audio tracks proves, the best way to watch An American Hippie in Israel is with a group, since the movie is nothing is not ripe for ridicule. If watched alone, its dreadfulness can act as a depressant, making Mike’s observation of “That was a bummer” ring painfully true. — Rod Lott