The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 22-28

04/22/2015 9:09 AM |

altered states

Altered States (1980)
Directed by Ken Russell
His first time on the big screen, bug-eyed and nutso, William Hurt goes looking for a psychedelic passageway via his limbic system to his primordial self. That is, he chases mystical truths, discovered through hallucination and mental illness, from a sensory-deprivation tank in NYC to a cave in the Mexican hills, where he discovers a blood-n-shrooms soup that allows him to tap into millennia of preevolutionary memory stored in our human DNA and genetically regress to a simian state—to become an American Wereape in Cambridge. How much more 70s can you get than tripping out not only to a higher state of consciousness but a purer state of physical being?! (Which he achieves not by moving forward, because modernity is bad, but backward, past de-evolution toward cosmic nothingness, like 2001’s Starchild sequences re-created under lab conditions.) Russell follows it to the far-out fringes of studio-funded cinema, especially in dream sequences with seven-eyed goatheads and crumbling hellscapes. It’s all so unhinged that Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the novel, took his name off the screenplay. Henry Stewart (Apr 24, 25, midnight at the Nitehawk)