June 28, 2010 at 2:46 am (6 Heads, Pick-Up) (, , , , , )

Pick-Up – 1975 – United States

Pick-Up isn’t about anything, pretending it’s about a lot. Two hippie hitchhiker girls ride with a handsome bus driver on a mysterious delivery. Detouring through the Everglades, the bus gets stuck and the three wander the swamp, hallucinating, having flashbacks, and (since this is an adult picture) balling. There isn’t much structure (aiding the dreamy atmosphere) and reality and fantasy blur as one girl encounters a sinister clown, a comedic politician, and a robed messenger of Apollo. Meanwhile, the other girl screws in a tree, a lake, and on a swing, before being raped and killed by hillbillies. Or maybe not, since the whole movie is revealed to be a prophetic vision in the end.

If you’re confused, join the club. Pick-Up is dense with non-sequiturs, symbolism, and ambiguity, mostly to disguise it’s a formless mess. Still, there is something compelling underneath it all. Pick-Up has an oppressive, surreal atmosphere, sometimes comedic, often dark. Enhanced by superb photography, the swamp is otherworldly, part Eden, part nightmarish shadow realm, and the swamp’s mysterious denizens occupy the same half-reality, be they snakes or angels in white. Pick-Up’s unusual atmosphere is furthered by its strange soundtrack. The musical accompaniment is nearly constant. Bach, love songs, noise, funk, but regardless of style, it’s distorted and tuneless. Even the pop music is washed in tunnel-like reverb, giving it an alien tonality.

Pick-Up is frequently boring and the slow-motion lovemaking is insufferable, but moments are so stylish and unusual that it’s worth the pretentious wanksterism and untitillating adults-only hogwash. One favorite scene is when the bus first gets stuck and the passengers get out.  What follows is a montage of the swamp resembling an alien world, wet and hazy but dappled with brilliant sunlight. Music is heard, sounding like a chopped up song run backwards set to a slow electronic pulse.

In another scene, a girl spots a clown frolicking in a marsh. She watches and laughs but closer inspection shows the clown’s visage frozen into a scowl. The girl alternates smiling and grimacing uneasily until, handing her a balloon, the clown removes his mask. One frame of a blurry maybe reptilian face is glimpsed. She flees through the swamp trailing the big balloon.

It’s difficult enough to describe Pick-Up, much less assign it a value. It’s a softcore porno that wants to be art—and sometimes is.  Unclassifiable, it’s equal parts creepy, funny, puzzling, and absurd.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. Pick-Up is an adult flick with big unusual ideas—an oddity worth muddling through.

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