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BLEEP THE PIGS! one of the most unconventional docs in years
Brett Morgan's Chicago 10 might not deliver any groundbreaking revelations about one of the most notorious of protests-gone-bad sagas in American history, where after four days and nights (mostly) non-violent protesters and loaded-for-bear police clashed horrifically on the streets of Chicago and then the masterminds in the 'Yippies' (i.e. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin) were put on a trial where all were sent to some jail time. It's not about revelations, per-say, though one might say that the story itself- encompassing 1968's volcanic political and societal tumult- could be a revelation for some younger audience members numbed out by cable news and desensitization.
What it's about is presentation, of taking apart agitprop of the period, assembling it together with rotoscoping of the Chicago 7 trial, music from the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Eminem and the Beastie Boys, and loads of raw footage documenting much of the actual on-the-street and behind-closed-doors action in Chicago. It's probably the most striking sort one's seen since The Filth and the Fury, however in a context of instead 70s punk rock 1968's culmination of anti-war demonstration.
It's an ugly, breathtaking and (unlikely) savagely funny movie, where older viewers can experience their memories of a time and place in a sometimes bizarre and sometimes sobering context (of hindsight being '20-20') and younger viewers (i.e. guys and gals in their 20s and 30s) get a peek at an era that seems all the more ballsy in the perspective of America's involvement in Iraq. Morgan also does something a little dangerous, but successful, in portraying the "heroes" for all they were in this time and place: stalwart idealists in the guise of immature not-totally American insurgents whose 'spiritual experimenter' was oft-meditating poet-dude Allen Ginsberg. What to think of these men like Abbie Hoffmann and the leader of the Black Panthers? A little biased? Perhaps - but in light of how the trial went down, why carp?
It's editing is fast-paced, but not too much so, and its technique of animation is multi-faceted. On top of the rotoscoping (some of the best in recent memory along with A Scanner Darkly), there's a night-time demonstration done in 2-D, like something out of a nightmare with its somewhat primitive movement, and then the figures of the Chicago 7 appearing before crowds (usually with great voice-work from Hank Azaria, Dylan Baker and Mark Ruffalo, plus a great career finale from Roy Scheider as the cantankerous judge in the trial). It's the kind of visual assault that for the prepared is like a bit of ironic bliss.
If you've seen the trailer, or know a bit about the trial, or about Chicago in 68 (which Hunter S. Thompson, looking back in just 1972, said brought him to tears), or just about the friction between anti and the establishment, you'll know if this is for you. It certainly is like nothing else you'll see this year as a piece of sublime, subversive history. 9.5/10
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