Hallelujah the Hills Blu-ray Review: Did Not Hit the Mark

Hallelujah the Hills was written and directed by Adolfas Mekas. The film was a hit at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and in turn was invited to 27 other festivals after its appearance at Cannes. Until now, it has not been available to own and has only been shown in limited viewings over the past five decades.

The film has been touted by some reviewers as the funniest movie you have never seen, but perhaps I just don’t get it. While I have a deep love for older comedies, from the slapstick of Buster Keaton, to the zaniness of films like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Hallelujah the Hills just did not hit the mark for me. It played like a first film project whose humor and homages to other filmmakers felt lost in the jumpy storyline.

Hallelujah the Hills follows Jack (Peter Beard) and Leo (Marty Greenbaum), two men who were both courting different versions of the same woman, Vera (Sheila Finn and Peggy Steffans) for seven years. One Thanksgiving, they both arrive at Vera’s house to learn about one another and to find that she has already married another man named Gideon (Ed Emshwiller). Lovesick and grief stricken, the two men go on a drunken bender and then set off into the woods. While hidden away, they stay in a cabin, drive an old jeep around, and revert to childhood by pretending to hunt (both animals and Gideon), play army, and each daydream about times with Vera.

While the plot seems straightforward enough, Mekas begins the film as a silent film with dialogue cards between each scene in the first few minutes, but then it becomes a regular sound picture about five minutes in. The timeline is not really clear so it takes a while to understand when the action is taking place in the present and when the action is taking place in flashbacks. The characters come across as flat and unlikable, so it was difficult to invest in any of them. They all acted spoiled and entitled. Jack and Leo are really just throwing an extended tantrum throughout the film. Outside of Vera being pretty and fun, there is no real reason given as to why they are each so in love with her.

The Blu-ray features a booklet essay by film historian John Pruitt; Hallelujah the Villa, an interview with Adolfas Mekas; The First New York Film Festival, a roundtable discussion with Adolfas Mekas, Joseph, Losey, Richard Road, and Amos Vogel; and An Interview with Ambassador from Lapland, a short film by Adolfas Mekas.

Hallelujah the Hills is not rated and has a runtime of 81 minutes and is available now from Kino Lorber.

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Darcy Staniforth

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