Long before the Gallagher brothers penned their hit 90s songs, back in the heady, groovy days of 1968, when hippyness and psychedelia was swingin’, baby, a movie was made by Joe Massot featuring George Harrison’s very first soundtrack, and art direction by the psychedelic collective known as The FooL. It was Wonderwall, a very, very strange film that appeared at sundance, got some acclaim, but because a distribution deal was never worked out, only played at a few midnight art houses and practically disappeared into obscurity.
The director also filmed the Zeppelin concert film Song Remain The Same, but was removed from it during editing when it was taking way too long. It’s quite possible the director could flake out a bit, and with Wonderwall being his first full length film, was unable to negotiate in the manner necessary to ensure his film went from Cannes notable to distributed counter culture movie.
At first glance the story seems a bit… inane. An eccentric English professor finds a peehole in his apartment that lets him spy on his new, young, 60s groovaliscious neighbors, a couple. The girl, named blatantly enough Penny Lane, utterly fascinates him. The couple has all kinds of hngouts and parties and be ins and Penny Lane seems to be perpetually posing for 60s softcore porn mags, cigarette commercials, and stewardess ads, alone and/or with equally underdressed ladyfriends.
The professor drills more and more peepholes in his walls and the more peepholes, the more psychedelic it all gets.Dionysian party jams, the old Prof battling a teenage Superman with “weapons” like giant cigarettes and lipstick tubes, an effeminate cowboy riding a plastic rocking horse and talking on the phone, a hippie mermaid chick floating on a sea of polyester fabric while brushing her hair…. The Prof starts dressing in a New Year’s party hat, or a funky outsized tuxedo, and decorating his apartment, especially the “wonderwall” itself, with streamers and party favors.
Eventually the professor crosses over to her world, but when he does , the hippie girl’s psychedelic-flavored life isn’t idyllic as it seemed. She is unmarried and has just discovered she’s pregnant, and her hippie boyfriend is being a big hippie dick about it. She swallows some pills and tries to off herself, but the professor saves her by getting her an ambulance.
The film is obviously a giant metaphor for the times. The professor is one of the normal squares, going about their unexamined life as the masses do. The psychedlic movement comes around, expanding minds and life and the professor is fascinated by what this new world is like outside his black and white existence and becomes increasingly drawn to it. He starts to turn his back on his drab, square world and embrace the new age. However, and i respect this nod to honesty, the great new hippy age is not all peaches and sunsets, and even psychedelic queens can get heartbroken and dicked over, and Mr. Sqaure can actually save her literally, as she has saved him figuratively.
It’s a fun remnant of an era when young film makers were trying hard to capture not only the 60s scene, but the LSD experience. I mean come on, what cutting edge late 60s film didn’t try to portray the LSD trip? Wonderwall definitely goes all in.
Geore Harrison, when approached to do the soundtrack expressed uncomfortability, saying he didn’t think he knew how to make a soundtrack. the director assured him not to worry, he would use whatever George came up with, so Harrison made a soundtrack heavy on the indian raga influence he was famous for at the time, a sort of western introduction to indian music. It’s pretty damn good, with some Beatlesy grooves also thrown in.