The Manson Family (2003)

 A film long in the making, perhaps because of the difficulty in meeting it as a docudrama with entertainment. Understandably. Under the direction and writing of Jim Van Bebber, The Manson Family comes to take on a life of its own, exploring an otherwise fragmented account of infamy wrought of excess. Piecing any chronology together of this “event” without resorting to stereotype or legalistic psychobabble requires more than simply sewing together the accounts of its participants. It requires a nightmarish travel within the confines of deluded sublimation and confused nihilism, all enhanced by extended, almost constant, drug use. Van Bebber’s ability to succeed to the extent he has is no small task.

The questions, How and Why constantly loom before us as we enter this film. Were any to suppose they could be answered fully would be cause for worry. Only actual transport within madness  could even begin to come close to that dubious revelation. A place where “Love” becomes homicidal hate and Christ becomes the devil incarnate.

Casting of many of the characters is superb. Marcelo Games as Manson exhibits careful discernment and care was taken in the selection. All the women among Charlie’s girls possess eerie abilities to portray so well their roles. Maureen Allisse (Sadie Atkins) and Amy Yates (Leslie van Houten) seem to become their roles. Although Marc Pitman bears little resemblance to the actual Tex Watson, his delivery of the role is convincing.

A plot within the plot is an interesting adaptation and a good way to remark on the “cult” developed around the Manson mythos of today. Reminding us to pay closer attention to tattoo themes, we may otherwise ignore at our own risk. For those empty of moral core await someone else to fill their void and it could be someone like Charlie Manson, the lesson all might learn. Extrapolated further, we might apply this to any influence that leads us to unjustified war with others and sublimations of death and killing in our very own media. Not much of a leap, sadly. After all, in programming of entrained assassins (as opposed to trained) is it not the historical review of the human condition (selectively applied, of course) that rings the bell?

If the viewer is to come away from this movie with anything other than a visual orgy of sex, drugs and mayhem, he/she must begin with such questions as, “what makes a Charlie Manson?” Perhaps even more, “what makes him charismatic, hypnotically so?” Is it personal lackings or depravity? So few bolted, even when the killing started. None relented (maybe a little just before parole hearings.) Rather, they were flaunting defiance through the years. In the face of penal retribution, in the face of public opinion. Open sores no one could heal.

And to this day.

Would that we were all too young for this movie.



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