Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s search for a kool place (2011) is a documentary created from the footage shot by Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in their drug fueled trip across the US in 1964 created by Alex Gibney, director of the documentary about Enron, Smartest Guys in the Room and edited by the Australian Alison Ellwood who also worked on Smartest Guys in the Room.
It’s a great documentary and a huge achievement. The Pranksters shot at least 40 hours of film and recorded sound along with it. Unfortunately the sound was never synchronized with the footage so recreating that was done by Gibney and Ellwood. The trip itself is really something, it is the beginning of the hippie era and a bridge between The Beats and the Hippies. The Pranksters could drive across the US and police would pull them over and be amused, rather than shocked and annoyed as they would soon by when the level of drug taking that the Pranksters were doing became commonplace. There is also footage of the Pranksters, that included Neal Cassidy (Dean from On the Road), meeting up with Ginsberg and Kerouac in New York.
The footage itself of the Pranksters amusing themself across the US is a lot of fun. It’s remarkable that it all happened about 50 years ago. The film is very much worth watching for anyone interested in the 1960s and Kesey and it’s an example of just how good a documentary can be.