The Monkees movie. Directed by Bob Rafelson, written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, who would go on to make the Oscar-nominated Five Easy Pieces together. If you think you can skip this film because you've sat through countless episodes of the TV show, think again. This is a psychedelic masterpiece on par with Fellini or Buñuel, with more to say than most Beatles flicks, sung in a language mainstream American film no longer knows. It will challenge and confound you. It will make you laugh. And it rocks.
Practically no one went to see this movie when it was released in 1968. The hippies thought it was too childish and the kids thought it was too weird. The only TV spots promoting it featured a black and white image of a mysterious bespectacled man shuffled with the word "HEAD"--The Monkees were never mentioned. (You can see an excerpt of these ads in the film itself, as one square in the grid after the opening sequence, and again as you see channel flipping right at the end.) It was recently issued on DVD by Rhino Video for a whole new generation to consume.
At its heart, this movie, like recent satires such as Fight Club and Josie and the Pussycats, is about the inherent paradox of corporate art. The Prefab Four admit that they are a manufactured product only three songs in. They win your respect less through writing their own tunes this time than through the oppressive atmosphere of confusion and loneliness they're stuck in. Yet they retain a relentless drive to entertain-- even at the expense of their own mental health-- and they do.
I don't want to give away more of this film's magnificent surprises than I have to, but I'll entice you with a few details: The opening chase sequence reimagines A Hard Day's Night as recurring nightmare, and throws in blissful suicide and mermaids for good measure. The eye in the mirror haunts Davy. Micky gets in the tank and blows up the Coke machine. And the fourth wall is broken over and over and over until you can't tell if any walls are still standing. You'll never forget this one, folks.