Dreams of Life

I recently came across two films worth mentioning here. Transes follows the Moroccan group Nass el Ghiwane during a tour in the early 1980s. Nass performs Moraccan chaabi music influenced by the heavily hypnotic Gnawa genre, hence the titular “trances.” They play with the frenetic energy of early Stones to their rapturous crowds. Director Ahmed El Maanouni captures spectacular live performances and freeform interviews through an omnispective lens. Tragically, it appears this film was collecting dust until Martin Scorsese picked it for a Criterion release a few years back.

The second film is a 1960s cult artifact. Chappaqua, directed by Conrad Rooks, tells the pseudo-autobiographical tale of Rook’s experience attending drug therapy in Paris. Rooks, who was best known for his adaptation of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, was an heir to the Avon cosmetics fortune which allowed him ample time to travel and ingest various substances. This is really all you need to know. The film’s a beautiful mess and a who’s who of 1960s counterculture featuring cameos by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, Ravi Shankar (who also composed the score), The Fugs, Ornette Coleman, and Moondog.

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