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The Holy Mountain
Still from "The Holy Mountain"via tmdb.org

Counterculture films that shaped the 70s

Pink Floyd on the soundtrack? Check. Wild desert orgies and funereal meet-cutes? You betcha

As demonstrated by the outpouring of devotion towards Inherent Vice and its haircuts, we’re still in love with 1970s counterculture cinema and eager to relive the decade any way we can. It’s the brief, exhilarating period of New Hollywood that handed money and free reign to creative weirdos who, intent on breaking boundaries, shot what they wanted: movies about outsiders, for outsiders. But rather than scour for clips on YouTube, you can experience these expansive, drug-fuelled landmarks properly on the big screen as part of The Land of the Free – a handpicked selection of hippy, trippy classics playing at Second Home.

200 MOTELS (1971)

Rock'n'roll is about smashing the rules, which Frank Zappa does with a woozy, vibrant tour documentary that explores the hedonistic adventures of touring on the road. Zappa co-directs and stars alongside his backing band, The Mothers of Invention, but the standout roles belong to two drummers. There’s Keith Moon as a gently levitating nun, and Ringo Starr coming to terms with a post-Beatles career in the role of Larry the Dwarf (dressed as Zappa, of course).

THE LAST MOVIE (1971)

The title nearly predicted Dennis Hopper’s directorial career after he blew a giant budget on an experimental satire of movie violence. Hopper stars as a B-movie extra who, while mining for gold, is trapped by Peruvian villagers recreating their favourite Westerns. Performing for fake cameras (comprised of sticks), the locals burn down their church and kill each other – except when they die, they really die. Shot non-chronologically with “scene missing” cue cards, Hollywood executives clearly didn’t fly to Peru during production.

ZABRISKIE POINT (1970)

When campus radical Mark is refused a sandwich, his hungry retribution is to steal a plane and swoop to the Mojave desert. (On an empty stomach, stay away from grocery shopping and airports.) Hailing from Italy, director Michelangelo Antonioni’s perception of America is as an existential landscape of antiwar protesters menaced by the police and corporations. Once Mark finds love in Death Valley (where else?), he embarks upon an elaborate orgy in the sand – it’s incredibly dusty and he’s probably still thinking about that sandwich.

HAROLD & MAUDE (1971)

Although it’s considered a faux pas to switch on Tinder at a funeral, remember that they are simply social gatherings for smartly dressed guests with a mutual acquaintance. It’s also where morbid twenty-something Harold and optimistic 79-year-old Maude establish an unconventional “meet-cute”, which blossoms into a loving relationship that baffles onlookers – especially Harold’s snobby mother. But Harold, who’s given up on everything apart from faking suicides, discovers through Maude a new dimension to life. It almost seems unromantic to not crash a stranger’s funeral.

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)

In a vampire coming-of-ager from Czech director Jaromil Jireš, rather than “Team Edward” versus “Team Jacob”, it’s a choice of “Team Horny Vampire Priest” or “Team Self-Mutilating Grandmother”. The perverse nightmare sends 13-year-old Valerie into a wonderland, signposted by Freudian imagery, where she puts on supernatural earrings. Her childhood is subsequently reshaped by black magic, the kidnapping of relatives, and bloodthirsty perverts at the church hunting for virgins. Well, adolescence isn’t supposed to be easy.

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973)

A circus of chameleons, a ceremonial melting of sex mannequins, and a purple octopus crawling out of a man’s slit neck. That’s right, LSD was involved. Director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who plays a Jesus Christ doppelganger governed by tarot cards, subjected his cast beforehand to months of sleep deprivation in his house. In a pre-credits sequence, a witch shaves off the luscious hair of two women staring into the camera. Are they pretending to be in a state of hypnosis, or regretting their participation?

THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT (1970)

Inspired by real protests held at Columbia University in 1968, Stuart Hagmann’s Cannes prize-winner details how passionate voices can call for social revolution. Simon, who becomes an activist to hang out with hot hippies, is fully drawn into the cause when it rails against an armed military. The students form an impromptu choir: sat in the gym, drumming their hands on the floor, bellowing John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’. It demonstrates the power of standing up to police brutality, and also memorising pop lyrics.

LA VALLÉE (1972)

Pink Floyd scored Barbet Schroeder’s La Vallée during a week in Paris – taking time off from recording Dark Side of the Moon – after viewing an early cut. The band, who also contributed tracks to Zabriskie Point, timed their jams with stop clocks to sync up with a wealthy French woman’s trek through Papua New Guinea in search of the feathers of a bird that might not exist. Even when she learns to lose all attachments to her former life, she still keeps Pink Floyd’s synths at heart.

GHETTO FREAKS (1970)

Ghetto Freaks is a misleading title for a psychedelic trip primarily concerned about white rockers exploring LSD, free love, and protesting the Vietnam War. That’s because it was originally called Sign of Aquarius, but renamed to cash in on the blaxpoitation market. This leads to a jarring juxtaposition, whereby a spiralling haze of naked dancers collapse into an orgy – shot through a fishbowl lens with kaleidoscopic camera trickery – that suddenly switches for two minutes to a black priest (he never appears again) passing blood samples to white female bystanders. Don't watch while eating lunch.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970)

In becoming the first film to receive an X-rating for violence (yup, it’s grindhouse), David Durston’s notorious B-movie was itself exploited for most of its lifetime, with each cinema in the 70s mangling the reels with scissors to perform their own censorships. But a restored edit fully explores what happens when a young boy tricks a satanic cult into snacking on pastries infected with the blood of a rabid dog. Basically, don’t do it, and if you do, stay away from groups fictionally based on the Manson family.

Land of The Free – A celebration of 1970s subculture films curated by Second Home is on until 21 April. Head here and enter code DAZED for free tickets.