The Strawberry Statement (film)
|The Strawberry Statement|
|Directed by||Stuart Hagmann|
|Produced by||Robert Chartoff|
|Written by||>Israel Horovitz|
|Based on||the novel by James S. Kunen|
Kristin Van Buren
|Music by||Ian Freebairn-Smith|
|Edited by||Marje Fowler|
Roger J. Roth
|June 15, 1970|
The Strawberry Statement is a 1970 American drama film and cult film about the counterculture and student revolts of the 1960s, loosely based on the non-fiction book by James Simon Kunen (who has a cameo appearance in the film) about the Columbia University protests of 1968.
The film details the life of one student. Its setting is not Columbia University in New York City but a fictional university in Stockton, California, which is based on San Francisco State College (later San Francisco State University). Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" and numerous other rock songs are used on the soundtrack.
Simon, a student at a fictional university in San Francisco (based on San Francisco State College) is indifferent to the student protests around him, until walking in on a naked woman in his dormitory roommate's bed. While she quickly runs over to the toilets to dress, Simon protests to his roommate that their time should only be devoted to studying, so they can get good jobs and lots of money.
Coming back clothed, the woman refuses setting another date with the roommate because she'll be busy protesting. She explains the university's plan to construct a gymnasium in an African-American neighborhood, thus causing conflict with the local African American population. She tells him that she and others plan to take over one of the university's buildings.
Simon later experiences love at first sight with a female student and uses his photographer position in the college's journal to photograph her. Following her into the university building the students are taking over, he joins the takeover just by being there. She approaches him while he boringly fools around in the toilets. She says her name is Linda and asks him to rob a food store with her so the striking students can eat.
In a later student protest, Simon is arrested. He then tells Linda he is not a radical like her. He does not want to "blow the college building" after doing his best to be accepted into the school in the first place. Linda later claims she can't see someone who is not likewise dedicated to the movement. Nevertheless, she announces temporarily leaving college to decide for sure.
In the showers, the rightist jock George beats up Simon, who decides to take advantage of the situation and use his injuries from George to fake police brutality. Gaining fame, his friend tells him "a white version of page 43" of Simon's National Geographic looks for him.
Alone in a filing room, a large breasted redhead with a tight sweater smiles at Simon. Seeing his injured lip, she puts his hands on her right breast and asks if it feels better now. She then takes off her sweater telling Simon "did you know Lenin loved women with big breasts?" After quick flashes of her breasts, Simon confirms liking them, but asks her if she saw The Graduate. Replying no, she takes him between some filing cabinets and takes off his belt. To her surprise, Simon does not want people to see whatever it is she plans to do to with him. When asking her if she at least locked the door, she confirms unconvincingly and immediately opens up some filing cabinets to hide them. Simon is worried, but she promises him no one will know. She then says she will give him something a "hero" like him deserves, ducks down and gives him an off-screen blowjob, zooming up on Che Guevara's famous poster staring in the air in its implacable expression.
After Linda returns, she announces her decision to be with Simon. They spend the rest of that day together – and implicitly the night. The following day, they make out in a park when a group of African-Americans approaches them. The anti-racism Caucasian rebels fear for their lives. One African-American drops Simon's camera to the ground and stomps on it, but the group then simply leaves. A furious Simon meets the strikers, saying those they help are no different than the cops and the establishment and questioning why they should help those who disrespect and even threaten him.
Simon re-thinks his comparison, though, after visiting none other than George the – now leftist – jock in the hospital. George's leg is in a cast after rightist jocks beat him up while cops watched. Simon goes to personally warn the dean's secretary to call off the construction of the gymnasium or risk a war. A group of African American students then show up, proving Simon's previous generalization wrong.
Eventually, a SWAT team crushes the university building takeover in seconds with tear gas. With the strikers all lying choking, the SWAT members pull out African Americans from the crowd and beat them up with police clubs. When the others protest, they get the same treatment.
With Linda being carried away kicking and screaming, Simon takes on a group of cops all by himself and segments of his happier times in college flash before the viewers' eyes.
- Bruce Davison: Simon
- Kim Darby: Linda
- Bud Cort: Elliott
- Murray MacLeod: George
- Tom Foral: The Coach
- Bob Balaban: Elliott
- Greta Pope: Song Leader
Clay Felker, editor of New York magazine, showed prodcer Irwin Winker a column James Kunen had written and told him it was going to be a book (it would be published in 1969). He read it and bought the film rights with partner Bob Chartoff. "We thought it could create understanding - the schism was so great between the generations then," said Winkler. "It was an important subject. These youths who are looked upon as anarchists are really just American kids reacting to problems in our society.Here was a story about an ordinary guy becoming an anarchist." 
Winkler had seen The Indian Wants to Bronx and It's the Called the Sugar Plumb by Israel Horovitz and asked if he had an idea how to adapt the book. Horowitz pitched the movie to MGM saying it should be shot at Columbia. "At the time, there was a student group that had shot a lot of black and white documentary footage of the strikes at Columbia," he said. "I wanted to intercut this documentary footage with the fiction that I planned to write. "
Hororwitz says he struggled to write the film after MGM wanted to shift it to the west coast. He talked to Kunen for a few days then asked himself, "Who is this movie for really? What's the point of this? If it's to preach to the learned already--then it will have no worth"."
Horowitz says "I took the approach that Michael Moore must take with his documentaries. Moore doesn't talk to the people who are already in the know--he's talking to those who don't know. So I started to head in that direction with the re-write of the script."
"The scenario was cut by the director," said Horovitz, "but not by MGM. It was diluted by cutting - it should have been much stronger than it is. But then it would have lost most of its audience straight away."
The film was shot in Stockton.
Kim Darby says the director "was very kind. He was lenient. He was a lot of fun too. He had done many commercials before, and there was the air of freedom around us."
The song "The Circle Game" was written by Joni Mitchell, and was sung popularized by Buffy Sainte-Marie. "Give Peace A Chance" (composed by John Lennon), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young "Helpless", and Neil Young's "The Loner" and "Down By The River" are used on the soundtrack.
The film was a commercial and critical flop. "The critics attacked the style instead of the substance," said Winkler. "Most disappointing was the dismissal by audiences."
Horotwitz says when he saw the film "I was really upset with it. I thought it was too cute and Californian and too pretty. "
"Bad timing," said Davison. "Everyone had enough of the country tearing apart."
Horovitz now saws he came to accept the film "for what it is, what it was, and what it represented in the time in which it was made. I'm glad I got to write it."
In 1971, Bruce Davison was nominated for his performance for the Laurel Awards "Male Star of Tomorrow".
- List of American films of 1970
- Columbia University protests of 1968
- Counterculture of the 1960s
- Vietnam war
- Civil rights movement
- List of historic rock festivals
- Movies: Herbert Solow Strives to Leave His Mark at MGM Herbert Solow and MGM Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times31 Aug 1969: j20.
- Chartoff and Winkler: Interchangeable Producing Partners: Interchangeable Producing Partners Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 23 May 1971: q1.
- "Interview with Israel Hororvitz". TV Store Online. November 2014.
- And Now the Strawberries of Wrath By A. H. WEILER. New York Times25 May 1969: D27.
- BO POLK AND B SCHOOL MOVIEMAKING Welles, Chris. Los Angeles Times 3 Aug 1969: l6.
- Langella -- Shakespeare To Hamlet: Langella: Shakespeare to Hamlet By LEWIS FUNKE. New York Times ]23 Feb 1969: D1.
- 'I Didn't Write It for Radicals!': 'I Didn't Write It For Radicals' By ISRAEL HOROVITZ. New York Times 16 Aug 1970: 89.
- So Truffaut Decided to Work His Own Miracle: So Truffaut Decided to Work His Own Miracle By GUY FLATLEY. New York Times 27 Sep 1970: X13.
- Filming a 'couple-week odyssey' By Kimmis Hendrick. The Christian Science Monitor 12 Jan 1970: 6.
- Israel Horovitz: 'I feel a violent revolution coming' By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor 22 July 1970: 11.
- "INTERVIEW SERIES: KIM DARBY talks with TV STORE ONLINE about THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT". TV Store Online. May 21, 2015.
- Hi, Mom, Greetings, It's Brian In Hollywood!: It's Brian In Hollywood By DICK ADLER. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]27 Dec 1970: 64.
- I'm Thought of More As an Actor Now Than As a Weirdo' By MARTIN KASINDORF. New York Times 4 Dec 1977: 111.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Strawberry Statement". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
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