Friday, February 26, 2010

Chappaqua (1966)

Chappaqua is a cult film written, directed by and starring Conrad Rooks. It is based on Rooks' experiences with drug addiction. It includes cameo appearances by a host of famous names of the 1960s: author William S. Burroughs, guru Swami Satchidananda, beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Moondog, and Ravi Shankar, who co-wrote the score with Philip Glass. Rooks had commissioned jazz artist Ornette Coleman to compose music for the film, but his score, which has become known as the Chappaqua Suite was ultimately not used. Coleman too makes a cameo appearance in the film.

The film briefly depicts its namesake, Chappaqua, New York, a sleepy hamlet in Westchester County, in a few minutes of wintry panoramas. The hamlet is an overt symbol of drug-free, suburban childhood innocence, and is also one of the film's many nods to Native American culture. The northern Westchester area had been heavily inhabited by Native Americans; the word chappaqua itself derives from the Wappinger (a nation of the Algonquin tribe) word for 'laurel swamp'.

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