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HALLELUJAH THE HILLS(director/writer/editor: Adolfas Mekas; cinematographer: Ed Emshwiller; cast: Peter H. Beard (Jack), Sheila Finn (Jack’s Vera in Winter), Martin Greenbaum (Leo), Peggy Steffans (Leo’s Vera in Summer), Jerome Raphel (Father), Blanche Dee (Mother), Jerome Hill (Convict), Taylor Mead (Convict), Ed Emshwiller (Gideon); Runtime: 88; Vermont Release; 1962)
“The comedy had the feel of a Buster Keaton movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The cinematographer Ed Emshwiller, once known as Emsh, used a hand-held 135-pound sound camera for some scenes, often composing super-impositions in the camera. The director Adolfas Mekas is the brother of noted Greenwich Village underground director and film historian Jonas, who is credited with assisting his brother during the shooting. Adolfas has come up with an offbeat, lighthearted romantic/comedy spoof, that gently mocks France’s New Wave cinema, which was the vogue among intellectuals at the time. This is a film geared to film buffs and indie lovers who are interested in some of the early 1960s works coming out of the underground cinema movement in the States. There is no political message or drug visualizations, as the film’s purpose is to convey the characters in a fun way. If you’re into sight-gags and strange visual images, then you should be pleased with the enthusiastic direction of this film. I enjoyed it as a look back at a more innocent time in cinema and took pleasure in how effectively it poked fun at other arty styles of cinema. The comedy had the feel of a Buster Keaton movie.

The story is about two city boys who take to the woods to find the girl they both love, Vera, and find out which of them she will marry. When Vera’s father gleefully tells them that she married Gideon two months ago because she was tired of waiting for them to ask, the boys take to the wintry woods trying to recall in their flashbacks the reasons for their obsessive attraction to her.

As an homage to the ‘New Wave’ Vera is played by a different actress in the courting scenes with Jack and Leo, which take place during different seasons. I guess they both had different impressions, so it does make sense that they see her differently.

The bizarre visuals gave this film its slapstick look. There was one scene of the boys dancing a Hebrew dance by a campfire in the woods, in another Chinese subtitles appear, in another the boys frolic in a frozen lake, in one scene there are people instead of birds on the branches of a tree. It was goofy fun. My favorite scene was of the two escaped convicts dressed in their striped prison uniforms fighting a duel, which brought about a fit conclusion to the two lovers and their search for answers.

REVIEWED ON 11/21/2000 GRADE: C +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”