Flashback Film – The People (1972) (TV)

The People

The following is reposted from my entry on IMDb from 2004:

Captures the Mood of the Time

Despite the fact it is often set in some remote setting, temporal or spatial, science fiction reflects the sensibilities of its own timeframe more than any other genre. This science fiction TV movie evokes a strong memory from my youth that is as much semi-personal cultural artifact as it is broadcast entertainment.

In the early 1970’s, there were a number of us, adults and children, who lived “apart” from the everyday society: rural, rustic, spiritual seekers, community-minded, experimental and questioning. We looked to the past to create the future. Many of us ended up in Marin County, in the northern section of the San Francisco Bay Area.

It is never really possible to perfectly signal the everyday mood of a cultural zeitgeist, though all movies attempt to, in varying degrees of success and intentionality. “The People,” while to some a modest and moderately successful literary adaptation, is, to me, a stunning capture of the “mood” of Bolinas, California, 1971. The social remove of the “people” acted as an allegory for our cultural dissatisfaction.

Step backwards. While a lot of people in this time/place avoided television (though not my family), the broadcast of this movie generated a great deal of excitement for at least three main reasons.

At the top of reasons were the crew involved. The director, John Korty, was local to the area (though I forget exactly from where…) Also, of great interest was in the scene in which the schoolchildrens’ story was told. Arthur Okamura was a Bolinas artist who did the illustrative paintings. (He also happened to be my father’s best friend at the time.) Of course, for Northern California grounding, there is the ubiquitous Coppola involvement.

Another reason for the interest were the filming locations in Northern California. This was before every other movie was made in an over-speculated and glamorized-to-death San Francisco.

The final reason is the message of the film, most importantly the final scene in which the group is able to act as a single healing force. This manages to fairly sum up the collective dream of our little alternative society.

Is it a good movie? I actually can’t say.

Then what can be said about this movie? Mostly is quite amazing that such a pristine cultural document exists in the form of a network movie of the week from its own era. Thousands of portrayals of “hippies” exist from the time, this is one of the few that is the real deal. It feels like an subversive art film that managed to get commercial sponsors.

That’s pretty, uh, cool…

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