Judge P.S. Colbert went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere...
"Sometimes you have to leave the things you know and the ones you love, just to find yourself."
Nothing ages faster than NOW.
No doubt Changes seemed pretty up-to-the-minute when it first snuck out in February, 1969. Dig: Twenty-year-old Kent (Kent Lane, Hooper) has tuned in, turned on, and he's dropping out of his classes at U.C. Berkeley, where ancient professors talk of ancient ideas, and guidance counselors drone on about career choices, and matriculation. They sound just like his old man (Jack Albertson, Chico And The Man), with his constant lecturing about morality, and money, money, money:
"But what you and the rest of your spoiled kids don't seem to understand is that somebody has to run the world. Somebody has to mind the store, and dropping out isn't going to cut it. All these underage juveniles walking around with beads and flowers in their hair, yapping about love and peace, and money isn't everything, and work is for the fossils—What the hell do they know about work? Most of them never did a day's work in their lives!"
He's always talking at his son, instead of talking to him—criticizing instead of communicating:
"You know, you sound just like a boy I was reading about in the papers last night. This boy had been fooling around with—with these psychedelic drugs, and suddenly he decided that everything he was doing was wrong. So he quit his job, left his wife and kids, and now nobody knows where he is. Is that your problem, have you been fooling around with those drugs?"
Kent has tried those drugs, but they aren't his hang-up. He needs air and space, freedom to think, time to…be. Soon, he's speeding along Pacific coast highways in his little black roadster convertible, soaking in the sights, the sounds, the smells, until he rolls the car, and has to leave it behind—Like those memories of Bobbi (Manuela Thiess, Nightmare Circus), a groovy and beautiful chick who loved Kent, but couldn't let go when it was time for him to move on.
Now hitchhiking, Kent meets a number of people along the way, including a normal-looking cat who wants to start some freaky scenes—No thanks, man. He cops another ride from a totally together black brother (Kenneth Washington, Hogan's Heroes), and one from Kristine (Marcia Strassman, Welcome Back Kotter), a knockout with a pixie haircut, who cruises all over the country in her Corvette, querying the Pepsi generation about their views on fashion, politics, religion, sex—you name it—which she then "sends all these bits of information on to New York, and they send them out as confidential letters to communications, business and executives who deal with youth."
Along the way, Kent sees horses grazing, roadside diners, children playing on monkey bars, hippies in body paint, grooving at an outdoor music festival, an anti-war demonstration, an anti-peace demonstration, sunrise, sunset, drab factory grays, and the colored lights of a beach side amusement park, where he meets Julie (Michele Carey, El Dorado), a sassy and sexy (slightly) older woman who has unique wisdom to impart.
Meditative, meandering, and mired in the fleeting conventions of its time, Changes probably never should have worked at all. But, strangely enough, it still works quite well, and as more than a mere time capsule, if one is willing to look past the thoroughly dated "hipness" of the dialogue and editing techniques.
I suspect that mostly it's the sheer sincerity with which it was directed by Hall Bartlett (who'd put Jonathan Livingston Seagull on the silver screen four years later), though one certainly can't discount the efforts of Oscar-winning cinematographer Richard Moore (Circle Of Iron) and the always-delightful Albertson—who'd just come off his Oscar-winning performance in The Subject Was Roses—masterfully bringing a real humanity to his role here (as "the father"—no name), which in lesser hands would represent only a speechifying stereotype.
Kudos to Code Red for resurrecting this long-forgotten gem (which actually beat like-minded releases Medium Cool and Easy Rider out of the chute). The screener I received for reviewing had some visual issues, including some muted, bleached-out colors and occasional blur, in addition to the expected appearance of grain.
Still, this widescreen transfer (in 2.35:1 letterbox) manages to look pretty wonderful most of the time, and even those flaws I mentioned didn't impair my ability to absorb and enjoy. The mono soundtrack bears up surprisingly well, and once the credits have rolled, you can live the experience all over again (albeit in truncated form) with the original theatrical trailer, which plays automatically after—and what Code Red release would be complete without the perennial Family Honor trailer tacked on to the beginning of the feature?
There's the haunting trill of Tim Buckley, and Judy Collins singing of "Rows, and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air." Welcome to NOW, baby—exactly as it was back then.
Guilt is just a word, brothers and sisters—Peace.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
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