Chappaqua (1966) Poster


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a near-perfect & often misunderstood masterpiece!
bobbycormier23 March 2005
i'd been waiting with incredible & building excitement to see this film since i first learned of its existence in the mid-seventies when the American film institute's Catalog of Feature Films 1961-70 was made available. unfortunately this "feature" film runs only about 80 min. in length. but i think that's just about right for the careful pacing & overall content. i didn't get a chance to see it until 1997 when it was released on video. in all those years, i couldn't track down conrad rooks & connections with burroughs, ginsberg, et al. didn't yield anything of use however much i inquired. when i finally saw it, it did not disappoint me on any level even with that build up of incredible expectancy of greatness. the robert frank cinematography is amazingly beautiful, as usual (check out those panning, beautiful color lens-flares in the "peyote sequence"). the intriguing & eclectic shankar, glass, coleman & fugs soundtrack is perfectly utilized & integrated. the script is just about flawless & quite complex in it's sometimes subtle & sometimes not-so-subtle symbolism & arcane inferences. the acting may not be perfectly consistent, but is almost always arresting. filmed for at least a couple of years before it was released, it truly is a pioneering effort of its genre (if you can classify that genre). rooks' direction is masterful, particularly when you consider the complexities delved into with this subject matter. & finally, its self-reflexive touches are appropriate, intrinsic & not overdone. definitely miss this one if yer brain-dead!

-bobby cormier
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A True Beatnik Cult Classic
skoorv20 May 2006
Written, Directed, Produced, and Acted in by Conrad Rooks. A true Beatnik cult classic. Swami Satchidananda was the first Swami to ever be brought to America, by Conrad Rooks himself. The United States was in turn introduced to Yoga and to the Eastern philosophies of Spiritual Healing. Conrad knew Andy Warhol before Andy knew Andy. And Conrad was integral part of the beat movement. He could be found in the coffee shops of Greenwich village long before it was hip or "Far Out". He grew up in New York city, but lived in India for years,traveled the Globe and met some very unusual characters. One must applaud this Filmmaker for having the perseverance and foresight to recognize that America was heading in to a very twisted and "trippy" period, one of the most unusual times in American History for sure. He invested all of his own money, yes it's true, NO other investors, unheard of today, for So many obvious reasons, did all of his own stunts, and somehow cast the icons of the beat generation to "act" in this movie. Ravi Shankar, Allen Ginsberg, And William S. Burroughs to name a few, what a cast indeed. He then proceeded to lead the viewers into this strange and hallucinogenic world where everything was psychedelic. Strange, interesting, and definitely warped, see it for yourself, you will be sure to be left "speechless".
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Ground Zero for psychedelic era
info-104224 April 2005
Conrad Rooks was a visionary; this film loosely recounts his journey to rehab, with Ravi Shankar and others providing the ethereal soundtrack. Images fly across the screen in wild abandon...not a "real" storyline, but mesmerizing. Available on DVD, seek it out and let your mind go free. Enough of the '60s blather, it's a cool movie that should be seen. Paula Pritchett isn't hard on the eyes, either. Ginsberg, Burroughs and others from the era are included. Phantasmagoria reigns supreme as Rooks plays out his drug-fueled life on celluloid. It's well worth seeing, a curiosity from the '60s, but more than that, it's a project of love from Rooks, who has disappeared from the scene, whatever that is or was. I enjoyed it in the theater, bought the DVD recently and revisited the feelings we felt back then. Beats many current offerings hands down.
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A hallucinogenic gem
chinaskee22 June 2001
Conrad Rooks' hallucinogenic gem also boasts one of the most hypnotic film scores of all time by Ravi Shankar.Rooks knows his story,and although he tends to wander at times,he's always keeps the action moving on course.Russel Harwick's (Rooks) attempts to "escape" the rehab center are hilarious.This film probably captures the essence of the sixties counter-culture like few films ever have. Although you might be tempted not to see this trip all the way through,you will only be cheating yourself out of one of the greatest movie endings of all time.
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A visual trip - and a great soundtrack.
soundmxr15 September 1998
The opening and ending shots have stayed in my mind for 30 years from one screening. An interesting film, if a bit self indulgent.

You might also like Shirly Clarke's film "The Connection"
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Embarrassing to watch
ArchObler30 October 2002
"Hey, look at me I'm on drugs! Look at how subversively freaky I'm acting!" is what Conrad Rooks seems to be saying in every scene he's in in this movie he also wrote and directed. This is what happens when you give an untalented drug addict a vanity project. There's also a great number of trite shots of Cheyennes and Indians and people a part of other cultures which eventually seemed to be a part of the public consciousness only as a conduit for 60's trippiness. William S. Burroughs has a lot of weird charisma though, the same kind he had in Drugstore Cowboy years later. Maybe if he had been the lead this would have been worth seeing but I still doubt it. * out of ****
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It's films like this that give the 60s a bad name ...
quahog7 November 1998
Pretentious, self-indulgent swill. The fictionalised autobiography of a poor little rich boy who goes into rehab, occasioning a plotless -- and pointless -- series of increasingly trite hallucinations. In addition to writing and directing (to the extent the film can be considered to have been written or directed at all), Rooks also stars, contributing a stiff, somnambulistic performance that, like some kind of thespic black hole, sucks the life out of every scene in which he appears. Still, to his credit, he WAS able to corral a pretty impressive bunch of collaborators into abetting him in bringing this piffle to the screen (cinematographers robert frank and eugene schufftan, musicians ornette coleman, ravi shankar, the fugs, and philip glass, hipster icons like william burroughs, alan ginsberg, moondog, and so on), which does give it a certain curiosity value. Neverthess, despite some striking photography and music, the film dates very badly, coming off as a shapeless compendium of off-the-rack "avant-garde" cliches, hackneyed visual gimmickry, and ponderously boneheaded navel-gazing by someone too vapidly irreflective and self-absorbed to realise that it's all been done before -- and better.
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trippy, strange and mezmerizing
darkneox11923 May 2001
Chappaqua is about a man who goes to France to get off drugs and during which he flips out and has flashbacks. Essential beatnick viewing. Im surprised not many people have seen this. Burroughs and Ginsberg have small parts. The soundtrack and visuals are very good. One of my favorite scenes is when the man flips out and the doctor comes to give him a shot and as the camera pulls away, it is on an ice rink and people on skates swerve by. Check it out. ****
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What was I thinking?
cliff-1911 September 2004
It's been happening a lot to me lately. I go back into the pop culture icons of my youth and see how they have held up over the decades (yes, I am that old). My overwhelming reaction seems to be, "What was I thinking? I once liked this stuff?" It happened with Cream (and Clapton's childish guitar solos), Butterfield, the Mothers of Invention and etc.

So I just checked out "Chappaqua," a film that had a huge reputation in my hippie circles. This was innovative? This was the film equivalent to tripping? And the shallow glimpses of the Fugs, Ginsburg, Ravi Shankar, etc? Man, what was I thinking? This would have been a very good student film project circa 1963, but not in 1966 (when so much had already been done) and not by a 30-something self-declared artiste.

Compare this to the competent job he did on "Siddhartha" and you will be amazed how much Mr. Rooks grew up in just six years. 4/10
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Bum trip, maaaaaan!
Infofreak22 July 2001
I'd heard about 'Chappaqua' for years, and had it built up in my head as something special, but finally seeing it was such a letdown! I'm a fan of psychedelic movies and music, and even I found it insufferable. If you aren't a fan of this era, then all I can say is AVOID.

If anyone is to blame for this garbage it must be Conrad Rooks, who is on the writer/director/star trip. Orson Welles he ain't! His acting in the first third of the movie is laughably bad. He plays "drunk" like he's auditioning for 'The Benny Hill Show'! After he sobers up things improve slightly, but then we hit the torturous psychedelic freak outs and hallucinations which go on and on and on until you either scream or fall asleep.

The only reason to watch this is to catch glimpses of Burroughs, Ginsberg, The Fugs, Moondog and other legendary cult figures. Unfortunately none of them do much to speak of. One decent thing about 'Chappaqua' - the soundtrack. Some tasty jazz (presumably Ornette) and lotsa Shankar.

Isn't it weird how all these years later "real" psychedelic movies like this bore you stupid, but "fake" ones like 'Psych-Out', 'Head' and 'Cult Of The Damned' get better and better?
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Fantastic story with great people ,playing right roles
andreygrachev24 January 2009
I wanted just to say that this entertaining and useful film was big surprise to be found. The story of psychedelic culture, music, literature,ritual- everything comes across that company filmed in Chappaqua. From the early titles one can see that it is impossible to imagine so many great fathers of what is called sex drug and rock n roll are here together. The story shows how far the young man went away by means of overdoses of drugs and drinks. The others, the professional psychedelic doctors, are trying to save his life by means of various techniques and skills. Great music, including Moon Dog, Philip Glass. For everyone , who loves New York culture is also highly recommended. Surreal trip into high high high point of the popular drugs' subculture.
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Substantially better than I expected
roarshock31 August 2006
Unlike most movies which try to illustrate drug and hallucinogenic experiences by using a bunch of jarringly bizarre and heavily symbolic images randomly strung together, Chappaqua struck me as having a strange emotional continuity throughout -- that is, every odd new scene and image that appears somehow feels perfectly appropriate when it occurs. It's as if Rooks not only put together visions and sounds that evoked his actual emotions and experiences, but also managed to assemble them in the order they happened, one flowing seamlessly into the next even though there is no obvious connection between them. In fact, the film strikes me as being not so much hallucinogenic as dreamlike, another state rarely captured well on film. So this is definitely not a film for those who insist that movies should explain, clearly and completely, exactly what they're all about. But if you want a chance to ride on the meandering currents of another person's mind, then you might give this film a try.
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1960s Time Capsule
gavin694228 June 2016
Semi-autobiographical story of Conrad Rooks, who travels to France to undergo a drug-withdrawal cure. Flashbacks to the beginnings of psychedelia in San Francisco.

The film briefly depicts Chappaqua, New York, a hamlet in Westchester County, in a few minutes of wintry panoramas. In the film, the hamlet is an overt symbol of drug-free suburban childhood innocence. It also serves as one of the film's many nods to Native American culture. The word "chappaqua" derives from the Wappinger (a nation of the Algonquian peoples) word for "laurel swamp." This is like the very definition of an art film. For those interested in Burroughs, Ginsberg and the beat generation, 1960s counter-culture, or any of that... this is a must-see. But it is first and foremost an art film, not a movie with a strong narrative. Dracula showing up for no reason? Yeah, it has that. Drug-induced delusions? Yep. It is interesting and I don't doubt it has a cult following, but it is really more of time capsule than a good movie.
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junkie1924 January 2003
I usually like art movies, especially ones based on a drug counter culture but this was horrible. I've seen crappy movies dozens of times before but this just takes the cake. It was horrible. I bought it for five bucks at my movie store and really wished I would have saved it. Save your money there are a lot of better movies than this.
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