Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London: Time Machines Are Always Jumpy

Those rare documentary films which survive the trials of time most often project a neutral stance. For instance, it’s hard to discern what director Michael Wadleigh really thought of the Woodstock music festival. His famous documentary of the event seems to swing a few ways.

Julie Christie explaining things

This is a myth of course. The creators have hidden themselves. They can see us through a two-way mirror. Pygmalion was always in control. Talent offers the option of anonymity. Think of it as a trick.

Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967) seems like a well-crafted home movie, replete with skewed framing, poor lighting, jagged editing. Who knows what director Peter Whitehead was really after?

‘Why is that interview with Julie Christie so odd?’ we might ask. Or, ‘How long has Vanessa Redgrave been truly insane?’ Or ‘Can there be a more irritating little man than Andrew Loog Oldham?’

I’s a home move about a specific time, in a specific place, with very specific people—and most home movies have such traits. And that’s the second trick. Let’s call it an invisible focus.

Next, the film’s apparently impoverished production values contribute to an overall impression of verisimilitude. We are not being manipulated by clever editing and premediated scripts. ‘Whoever made this’ we can say, ‘was on the run.’

And then there’s the music, supplied by groups like Pink Floyd, Eric Burdon & The Animals, the Rolling Stones, and the Small Faces. So, it sounds like the 1960s, especially from a contemporary point of view.

Many scenes are trippy and druggy, with over-exposed visages somehow buried beneath churning, neon rhythms. Man, this really is swinging 60s London. Oh whatever, we expect time machines to be a little jumpy.

Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London is what great documentary films should be – totemic artifacts which bespeak the sculpted more than the sculptor.

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