Reviews

Summer Turns to Fall: Revisiting the 'Summer of Love' 50 Years Later

Summer of Love simultaneously demonstrates why that moment in the cultural timeline is worth commemorating, what its legacy is, and what was lost as summer turned to fall.


Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll

Publisher: University of California Press
Price: $50.00
Author: by Jill D'Alessandro (Editor)
Length: 344 pages
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2017-04
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For a catalogue (and the exhibition to which it is related, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, from 8 April to 20 August 2017) about one of the most iconic periods in modern American history, Summer of Love manages to accomplish an impressive task. From the first essay in the book -- "Not Past At All" by Dennis McNally -- it's clear that the overarching forces at work in San Francisco's iconic 1967 Summer of Love are still at work today. As McNally explains, "The residents experimented with sexual liberation, with freedom; they challenged the nuclear family, materialism, violence, the war in Vietnam, and the bulk of the ideas they'd been raised on."

Of course, every generation challenges the one that preceded it; that's nothing new. But it's easy to see how historians far in the future might conclude that we are still largely living in the same historical moment. To this day, we are still having many of the same debates as the Summer of Love participants.

Yet, despite all of this, it's impossible to read the essays and the photographs contained herein and not recognize that something profound has been lost between generations. In Section 3, we see a collection of photographs, posters, and fashion from "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In", an event with a conventionally '60s-era name that took place several months before the Summer. From posters to photographs of attendees to the fashion they wore, there’s a barely contained yearning for freedom and expressiveness.

If the Be-In were held today, it would be sponsored by Wells Fargo and Absolut Vodka, its attendees would be dressed head to toe in H&M or Under Armour, and advertisements display would be the result of targeted advertising via Instagram or Facebook. The same for the famous Trips Festival. Of course, the more important point is that there would be no "Be-In" today.

The Summer of Love -- like the '60s counterculture overall -- was "turbulent yet hopeful" as Jill D'Alessandro writes in Section 8. Throughout the catalogue and the essays, these two elements exist perpetually in tension but never fully exhausting the other. If the rock posters contained herein were "the expressive mechanism for a whole generation" as we're told in "Selling San Francisco's Sound", what have come to replace them? Are today's memes -- endlessly shared and cobbled together quickly by today's youth culture, recycled and used to distinguish between those who “get it” and those who don’t -- the contemporary analogue? Whereas San Francisco's posters "allowed creative freedom [to mingle] with the rarified idealism", today's memes are devoid of creativity and are mingled with habitual, snarky cynicism.

There's no doubt, the posters are the superstars of the catalogue: many radiate with carefully-crafted imagery incorporating color theory to crudely imitate the visual radiance of mind-altering substances (e.g. pl. 29, "Can You Pass the Acid Test?"; pl. 132, "Swirley"). From the perspective of 2017, they look even more hopeful than ever. The product of a cultural moment in which "both poster and fashion designs were ... informed by Eastern cultures and religions", could either exist today without being shouted down for cultural appropriation?

Jill D'Alessandro's essay on Summer of Love fashion, "Stitching a New Paradigm", is equally enlightening. Organized by theme and/or material, it's by far the essay with the most impressive images. Figure 38, "Helene Robertson in a 1920s dress", steals the show with its simple black-and-white glamour. In it, Robertson sits cross-legged, bejeweled, bedazzled and entirely emblematic of the themes of D'Alessandro's essay: "While their original sources may not be well known, deep in our collective psyche these fashions conjure memories of a time of freedom and hope, one of the many lasting gifts of San Francisco's Lost Generation."

Robertson's story (described in detail in D'Alessandro's essay) and the catalogue itself demonstrates beyond a doubt the powerful contributions San Francisco and its spectacular Summer made to American (and specifically hippie) fashion. Pls. 335 - 337 are laid out for study in two full page photographs; pl. 337 "Birgitta Bjerke, wedding dress" is even splayed widely to reveal the full extent of the handiwork that went into the crocheted wool gown. Some items are explosions of color and creativity that might still be seen today cobbled together from a local thrift store by today's particularly industrious hipsters (e.g., pl. 343, a design by Helene Robertson herself). Others, including two dresses by Robertson (pls. 340 - 341), have genuinely transcended their time and place.

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll does a remarkable job conveying both the ideas and the content of an exhibition many of us will never see. Its precision focus on one moment in one city in American history is the book's greatest strength. It manages to simultaneously demonstrate why that moment is worth commemorating, what its legacy remains today, and what was lost as summer turned to fall. Perhaps it isn't fair to compare today's youth to those living amid the Summer of Love. As Dennis McNalley writes in his opening essay, "By 1968 Haight Street would be inhabited by children shooting methedrine and heroin. The magic died hard."

8

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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