Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me


1h 30m 1971

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 10 Sep 1971; New York opening: 15 Sep 1971
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Franklin, Pennsylvania, United States; Meadsville, Pennsylvania, United States; Meadville--Allegheny College, Pennsylvania, United States; Puerto Rico, United States; New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña (New York, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color

Synopsis

In 1958, Gnossos Pappadapoulis returns to his American college from his travels in Mexico. To rent an apartment, he claims to the pretty British girl who answers the door, Pamela Watson-May, that he is a fellow Brit. After she provides him with tea and biscuits, he plies her with his charms and a recital of Proust, and when he kisses her, she finds she cannot resist him. Later, on campus, Gnossos greets his old friend Heff, who is shocked to see him, having heard that he died. The two, with Heff's girl friend Jack, return to Heff's apartment, where they smoke marijuana as Gnossos describes some of the horrors he experienced in Mexico, including watching a man tortured to death. He then visits his old professor, Calvin, a spiritualist who has discouraged Gnossos from seeking answers outside himself rather than looking within. Skeptical that Gnossos has outgrown his cynicism and alienation, Calvin nonetheless welcomes his protégé's attempt to settle down and re-enroll in school. After obtaining the signature of the college dean, whom Gnossos despises, he meets his old buddy Fitzgore, who has recently joined a fraternity. Upon learning that the fraternity provides free steak dinners during "rush," Gnossos convinces the mild Fitzgore to take him along as a prospective member. Almost immediately, however, the fraternity brothers' conformist appearances and conservative outlooks disgust Gnossos, who smokes marijuana in a dorm room and returns to the dinner argumentative and aggressive. After accusing the fraternity president of being a closeted homosexual, Gnossos is thrown out. When he complains to Heff that everyone is still "full of crap," Heff retorts that Gnossos is stuck in same negativity as before. That night, Gnossos visits Calvin, who offers him an experimental drug that soon launches Gnossos into a bad trip. After finally falling asleep, he awakens to increasingly frightening hallucinations, but is soothed by Calvin's wife Beth. Later, he discusses the effects with Calvin, who explains that the point of the drugs is to help teach them how to dwell in alternate forms and lose themselves. While Gnossos recovers at home, as a joke Heff calls in Father Putti to perform last rites, and Gnossos plays along by claiming his soul is in mortal danger. Putti tries in vain to convince him to go to a secular doctor, then gamely recites a Latin prayer over him while Heff giggles. The friends then go to a beat club, where Juan Carlos Rosenbloom, who also attended the fraternity dinner, introduces himself to Gnossos, stating that he was inspired by his performance at the fraternity house and declaring them fast friends. The club is run by Mojo, a drug dealer for whom Gnossos used to work, and his assistant Heap, who keep a drugged monkey as entertainment. Gnossos spurns Mojo, then meets a student named Kristin. As the night wears on and the patrons fall into embraces, Gnossos kisses Kristin, who refuses to let him make love to her, stating that she is a virgin. He invites her to his apartment, cleaning frantically to make it presentable before her arrival. They spend the evening together, and as they are about to make love, Gnossos' Indian neighbors, George and Irma Rajamuttu, burst in, interrupting them. Gnossos and Kristin plan another date quickly, during which they have sex. Although there is no blood, she claims to have lost her virginity while using a tampon. The two are soon embroiled in a passionate affair, and he accompanies her to a student government board meeting in which the fraternity-controlled steering committee retains a conservative stranglehold. After Kristin's motion is defeated, she and Gnossos argue, after which he returns to his apartment to find Mojo and Heap waiting for him. Gnossos once again turns down Mojo's appeal to return to work for him. Later, Kristin asks Gnossos to meet her family, but he refuses, knowing he cannot abide their middle-class values. Heff then informs Gnossos that he has agreed to smuggle marijuana from Cuba into America for Mojo, and hopes to remain in Cuba to join the country's revolution. Rejecting his friend's offer to join him and Juan Carlos, Gnossos proposes instead to throw him a party, but Heff declines, stating that he dislikes being around Kristin because of the tension in their relationship. Although Gnossos disdains Heff's analysis, he is soon fighting with Kristin again, and when he declares that he would give up anything for her, she responds that this is only because he has so little in his life to begin with. After she asserts, "I'm the only thing happening in your life," Gnossos throws her out, then spends hours trying unsuccessfully to track her down. Drinking alone in his room, he experiences a drug flashback and rushes to Calvin's for guidance. Calvin offers him a bed, counseling him to defy the demon if it returns, and later Beth awakens Gnossos to exhort him to ignore Calvin's advice, as he has no answers and is searching for something that does not exist. Distraught and confused, Gnossos calls Heff and asks to go along with him and Juan Carlos to Cuba. There, he discovers he has gonorrhea and realizes that Kristin was not a virgin. Now disillusioned with everything in his life, Gnossos spends days in Havana in a drugged and drunken stupor. One afternoon, Juan Carlos finds him and drags him into the street, where people are gathering around Heff, who has been shot down in a revolutionary skirmish. Gnossos sobers up and digs his friend a grave in the hills, hoping to provide him a more peaceful resting place.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 10 Sep 1971; New York opening: 15 Sep 1971
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Franklin, Pennsylvania, United States; Meadsville, Pennsylvania, United States; Meadville--Allegheny College, Pennsylvania, United States; Puerto Rico, United States; New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña (New York, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

After the introductory scene in which "Gnossos Pappadapoulis" seduces "Pamela Watson-May," the opening credits appear, superimposed over scenes of 1950s teenagers dancing on a college campus as radio reports detail the era's various political upheavals. The opening crew credits for the prop master, script supervisor and gaffer were illegible on the print viewed.
       Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me was based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Richard Fariña. Fariña was killed at the age of twenty-nine while driving his motorcycle home from a party celebrating the book's publication. The novel quickly earned cult status for its portrayal of aimless, 1950s, beat-generation alienation. Most reviews compared the film unfavorably to the book, stating that it failed to achieve Fariña's incisive exuberance and humor. While the film hews fairly closely to the book, writer Robert Schlitt excised the book's ending, in which Gnossos receives a draft notice and wanders on undaunted.
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me marked the feature film debuts of director Jeffrey Young, a former American Film Institute fellow (then called an intern), and producer Robert M. Rosenthal. Young was among the first AFI interns to direct a feature film. As noted in contemporary news items and production charts, the picture was shot on location in New York, Puerto Rico and in Pennsylvania in the town of Franklin and at Allegheny College in Meadville.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971