Chappaqua (1966)

Chappaqua (1966)

“I’m suffering from addiction to drugs!”

A drug and alcohol-addicted young man (Conrad Rooks) experiencing flashbacks to hallucinogenic trips checks into a treatment center in France run by Opium Jones (William S. Burroughs), with care provided by Dr. Benoit (Jean-Louis Barrault).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
  • Counterculture
  • Living Nightmare

Writer-director Conrad Rooks’ semi-autobiographical film debut, about life under the influence and in recovery, features a pulsing soundtrack by Ravi Shankar and cameos by a handful of noted cultural icons, including Allen Ginsburg:

… William S. Burroughs:

… Hervé Villechaize:

… and Shankar himself.

The “narrative” (such as it is) is decidedly non-linear — more lyrical than logical, designed to directly put us into the mind of someone lost in a series of visions and hallucinations that are both pleasant:

… and more menacing (as in a metaphorical sequence showing the literal gamble one takes when doing drugs).

Rooks’ love of cinema is evident throughout, as in expressionist scenes evoking The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920):

… as well as the strategic casting of Barrault as a doctor overseeing a patient (Rooks) who occasionally imagines himself in clown make-up much like Barrault’s character in Children of Paradise (1945).

Meanwhile, the frequent footage taking place in Asian countries brings to mind the ubiquity of white youth searching for enlightenment in the East during this era.

While this is all terribly self-indulgent, it’s unique enough to merit a one-time look by those curious to see what it’s all about.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Robert Frank’s cinematography

  • Ravi Shankar’s score

Must See?
No, unless you’re curious. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Chappaqua (1966)

  1. First viewing (4/10/22). Skip it. Please.

    Inexplicably, this film won the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. Maybe everybody was doing more drugs that year.

    It’s a film that has now understandably fallen into obscurity. It’s pointless, amateurish and indulgent. And boring as hell.

  2. I was probably overly generous in my assessment. 😉

    It’s boring, but at least his earnestness comes through in spades — and for the time it was made, it’s pretty visually creative.

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