Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The President's Analyst (1967)

60’s not only paved the way for violent bursting gangster cinema and higly engaging auteur dramas tracking the widening generation crack, but also gave birth to a new sort of comedies playing or spoofing on middle class lifestyle, conservative beliefs and finally on their motherland – the counterculture. A reason inviting new forms was rapidly transforming market itself, into which big Hollywood productions suddenly couldn’t tap no more. When high budget lollipop musicals and melodramas were losing money, studio moguls were desperate to replace them with anything, that would keep them going, hence they were accepting ideas, which before would be turned down without even reading the script.

"The President’s Analyst" was one of these movies and although accepted for production by Paramount – a half-independent studio for Hollywood standards at that time – it was still subversive enough to make high-rolling fatties nervous. Written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker, till that time a well doing TV craftsman, it boiled up a whole range of creative ideas, that in theory would fry rebellious brains of Baby Boomers entering the cinema. However, soon after kicking off the production, reality shock sobered up the artist when FBI demanded their name to be dropped from the movie concerned about their image – since 1963 they were slowly becoming one of the most hated American institutions among the hipsters, acid heads and leftists, commonly accused of messing up with JFK kill. The names of key agencies in the script were hence replaced by silly sounding, but still effective in direct alluding – FBR and CBR.

Nevertheless, this exceptionally funny, off-beat comedy still managed to come across with it’s agenda standing out as one of the best genre movies of it’s time, which though initially flopped, developed a real cult with time. The plot concerns sudden shift in Dr. Schaefer’s life – a genuine New York psychiatrist played by James Coburn, strongly attached to his academic methods. He’s just passed a dilligence rundown, ordered by FBR and CBR, which made him effectively the official US president’s psychoanalyst. He promptly moves to Washington to start his new assignment, but after short period of high stress on-call work, due to being privy to the biggest national secrets he becomes extremly edgy and suspicious of everything around him developing heavy paranoia. Eventually he suffers a nervous breakdown and flees the capital with randomly met "typical American family". He heads to East Coast fearing for his life, which proves to be justified as FBR, CBR and dozen of other foreign intelligence agencies have just made him the most valuable man in the world by opening a hunt!

That’s when the movie blows into a whimsical and soaring social satire as Dr. Schaefer is jumped at the front of NY restaurant by secret agents and runs for his life passing casually Cafe Wha? and getting into the near parked flower power van. Hippies – acted by obscure psychedelic group Clear Light – become a perfect cover introducing him to the countercultural lifestyle soaked in weed, acid and rock music. These beautiful scenes with Clear Light are a real find for 60’s psych fans as the group recorded only one brilliant album for Elektra Records in late 1967 disbanding shortly afterwards, therefore their footage is extremly hard to find. There in fact we get to feed on 60’s culture exploits being loaded up with back-to-earth cliches, psychedelic wisdom and LSD freak-out scenes, all flashing through well built underground vs. overground undercurrent, which will fuel the rest of the movie with light-hearted, but hip wit.

As the intrigue carries on, we read this old anarchistic truth in "The President’s Analyst" – competition often gets in the way of itself, especially in killing business – when Dr. Schaefer luckily saves his life. In the end he’s gonna combat forces of repression using his natural talent for telling people the truth and effectively winning their side. Even if they are secret agents, they still need to be treated, which helps to unroot the seed of ultimate technocracy being planted behind the closed door by The Phone Company – a bizarre symbol of business machinery looking up to depersonalizing a free individual – when their head quarter is tactically wrecked by the doctor and his patients-friends… but the question remains, for how long it’s gonna stop the oppressors?

This terrific flick stands as one of the most hilarious 60’s projects by any standards, which gently lines up with such comedies as "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" (1968), "The Party" (1968), "The Magic Christian" (1971), but might be treated as a perfect companion for hippiesploitation flicks like "Wild In The Streets" (1968) or psychedelic sci-fi spoofs like "Barbarella" (1968) as well. No doubt it’s an artifact of it’s time, but very prophetic in pointing at all the side effects of modern political order. A must-see indeed!