An apolitical college student joins a group of campus protesters to meet girls but gets swept up in their cause and involved in a violent confrontation with police.An apolitical college student joins a group of campus protesters to meet girls but gets swept up in their cause and involved in a violent confrontation with police.An apolitical college student joins a group of campus protesters to meet girls but gets swept up in their cause and involved in a violent confrontation with police.
Despite frustrations with what seems at times a self-indulgent approach, there are some good touches. Catch how Simon's previous life is summed up by the regimentation of the rowing team. There's even an overlay of barbed wire to emphasize the point. I guess that makes up for the absence of a peek into his home life. Moreover, Simon's fantasy moments are also strategically inserted, thereby avoiding dialog to account for his actions. Thankfully, however, the device is not over-used.
On a more personal note-- as a student activist (SDS) of the time at a large metropolitan university, I'd like to offer a couple observations. The movie barely mentions the war then raging in Vietnam. Yet in my experience, it was a prime motivational factor, especially with the draft breathing down so many male necks in behalf of a bloody politician's war. Also, there's almost no political theory discussed even briefly in the movie's fast-moving kaleidoscope. Instead, the movement's leftist orientation is imparted visually by repeated images of an iconic Che Guevara.
The strike we mounted at my school failed to come off when an important student group opposed it. As a result, the movement there soon faded away. In the movie, however, the police violently overwhelm the student strike. Nonetheless, the police action appears over-dramatized even if correct in essentials. This latter I base on what I experienced at the so-called Century City riot of June, 1967, in west LA. There an all-white march of mostly respectable adults ended at a hotel where President Johnson was to speak. Planners however failed to provide an exit route and the crowd soon overflowed with bunched up marchers. Both police and protesters panicked and a melee ensued in which many folks were beaten bloody with batons. It's probably the biggest police-white people fracas in LA since that time. I mention this as a perspective on the movie's portrayal of a police take-over of striking students. Over-done though I believe the depiction is, the movie is still correct in the use of random police violence. And though hippie-style free love is at least implied in the movie, my experience was that the political side of protests was clearly distinguishable from hippie-type cultural protest.
Anyway, the film's disruptive style is rather frustrating. But that may be the movie-makers intended effect since the protest movement itself disrupted convention. In that sense, the finished film would amount to an intentionally awkward combining of style and content in order to better depict turmoil surrounding real student protest. To me, however, some essentials that depend more on words than visuals get unfortunately left out.
All in all, I think the movie does capture a sense of new-found-freedom as the students rebel against a background of 1950's conformity. At the same time, the protest gatherings also provided an educational exposure to many of the country's most vital but suppressed realities. Sure, SS may not be the best student movie of that time, but it does have its moments.
- Aug 29, 2016