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TIMOTHY LEARY'S DEAD

USA, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Documentaries)

Director: Paul Davids

Timothy Leary, who Richard Nixon called "the most dangerous man alive", makes a great subiect for a documentary. Paul David's remark­able and wildly entertaining look at the originator of the phrase "Turn on, Tune in, Drop out" tracks Leary's journey from Harvard professor to counter culture guru; the now unbelievable prison sentence of 30 years for possession of two joints; the period of heavy Hollywood schmoozing and general pop culture icon are all covered in an eclectic mix of archival footage and contemporary interviews with the man him­self.

Nearly all of Leary's peer group and fellow travellers through the psychedelic kingdom are rounded up and prove only too willing to talk at length about a man many consider central to the 60s drug culture. Surprisingly, considering that the large scale ingestion of psychedelic drugs (LSD etc.) was supposed to cause brain melt­down and the end of civilisation as we know it, all of them appear remarkably together and lucid.

Structured around Leary's final days after his diagnosis of inoperable prostate cancer, this affec­tionate portrait never shrinks from the self-serving aspects of Leary's monomania; rather it is fasci­nating in its treatment of Leary's use of the Internet and obsession with cryogenics as a means of perpetuaung one's own life. What emerges finally is a definitive view of a life well spent.

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