Pras on World Films: EIGHT MILES HIGH

ORIGINAL RELEASE TITLE: Das Wilde Leben (The Wild Side)

Eight Miles High:   A docudrama about the wild lifestyle of ’70s popstar & fashion icon Uschi Obermaier   

A Munich teen achieves worldwide fame as the embodiment of sexual freedom in the 1960s after romancing some of the biggest rock stars on the planet and rising to stardom as a successful supermodel in this biographical musical drama centering on the eventful life of Uschi Obermaier. Until she arrived at the legendary Berlin “Kommune 1,” Obermaier (Natalia Avelon) was just your typical German teen. All of that would quickly change, however, as Obermaier entered into a heated affair with leader Rainer Langhans (Matthias Schweighofer), appeared on the covers of Playboy and Stern, and became an icon of the young generation. But even when offered the opportunity to become an international film star by Italian producer Carlo Ponti, Obermaier refuses to trade her freedom for fleeting fame. Later, after experiencing the darker side of fame during a relationship with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and realizing that she can no longer reconcile her outlook on life with living like a common groupie, the outspoken hippie nymph embarks on a quest to find eternal love with charismatic globe-trotter Dieter Bockhorn, the owner of Hamburg’s red-light district.

Uschi Obermaier

She was Germany’s uber-groupie, a provincial Bavarian girl who lucked her way onto a magazine cover, became a famous model, slept with Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger, and had something a little more than that with Keith Richards. Along the way, she was also involved with a radical commune, was on the cover of Playboy, traveled the world with a playboy in the bus he constructed for her and gave a face to the word Eurotrash.

The mythologizing of the ’60s gets a lusty, Germanic twist in “Eight Miles High,” a full-bodied take on the life of the world-class sex kitten Uschi Obermaier (Natalia Avelon). Directed by Achim Bornhak from a screenplay written with Olaf Kraemer, the movie follows, with refreshing lack of judgment and titillating brio, the überbohemian peregrinations of a wild child born to a drab Munich household but destined for flamboyant London orgies and spectacular third-world slumming.  Revealing much flesh if rather less personality, Ms. Avelon throws herself into the role of the real-life Obermaier, a one-woman counterculture who was variously, often simultaneously, a model and a communard, a groupie and a globe-trotter, a feminist and a free-lover, a brat and a goddess.

Natalia Avelon stars as Uschi Obermaier in "Eight Miles High," directed by Achim Bornhak.

Mr. Bornhak recreates her travels from Munich and Berlin on to London, New York and Rome and thence, partnered with the brash adventurer Dieter (David Scheller), into the hippie wonderlands of Pakistan, India and Mexico. Like most flower-power nostalgia trips, “Eight Miles High” has the irksome effect of reminding the audience — whether too young or too square — that it missed out on the grooviest moment in history, man. But as these things go, this one goes with flair.

Uschi Obermaier was a real woman. She slept her way to what looked like the top to her, but she was fiercely independent, rejected all offers of marriage, walked out on contracts to indulge her free spirit and lived the life all groupies dream about (I guess). Then she told all in her autobiography, High Times. The distance “eight miles” has been added to the movie title no doubt in reference to Byrds’ song.

The movie presents the surfaces of Obermaier’s life but never lets us understand who she was. Avelon has a face for the role that is maddeningly unrevealing; sometimes she pouts, sometimes she’s happy, sometimes she’s pensive, sometimes she’s out to lunch. As Rainer Langhans, the real-life leader of a Berlin commune, Matthias Schweighofer reflects a quality I noticed in a few ’60s leftist radicals I knew: He’s like a strict, scolding mother, lecturing those in his charge to correct their flawed ideas. That he and Uschi are “in love” is, I think, an ideological decision. He’s not comfortable with her celebrity and she’s not happy to be lectured at. Though her modeling is accepted by the commune as a source of funds, they don’t think she’s really sincere in her worship of the cause, nor is she.

Uschi Obermaier as a Rolling Stones groupie with Keith Richards

David Scheller is more interesting as the real-life Dieter Bockhjorn, who ran a nightclub in Hamburg, which he often closed to throw wild parties for his friends. Uschi has seen photos of him cavorting with African dancers, responds to his invitation to see the world, travels by bus with him for, I dunno, several years, it seems. In those carefree years, lots of hippies were drawn to India, and so are they, using a newspaper headline to convince a maharaja they are a prince and princess. He offers to throw them a wedding and does, with a brass band, horses, elephants, costumed dancers and all you can eat. Uschi, opposed to marriage, is told by Dieter that the ceremony “isn’t really real,” and going along with it is like a favor. Later, she pouts, “But I think it was real for him.”

There are some nice moments. She breaks up with Keith Richards but later meets him by accident on a Mexican beach, and they find they’re still in love. But he is getting married and observes, “Seems like we’re always meeting at the wrong end of the stick.” Nice line. It seems doubtful that Jagger would come sniffing around Berlin without a bodyguard, but if you see Uschi in this movie, you may sympathize. The real Uschi, I learn, was slender. Not Avelon. She possesses a matched set of expensive breasts.

Eight Miles HighMs. Avelon throws herself into the role of the real-life Obermaier, a one-woman counterculture who was variously, often simultaneously, a model and a communard, a groupie and a globe-trotter, a feminist and a free-lover, a brat and a goddess.

Mr. Bornhak recreates her travels from Munich and Berlin on to London, New York and Rome and thence, partnered with the brash adventurer Dieter (David Scheller), into the hippie wonderlands of Pakistan, India and Mexico. Like most flower-power nostalgia trips, “Eight Miles High” has the irksome effect of reminding the audience — whether too young or too square — that it missed out on the grooviest moment in history, man. But as these things go, this one goes with flair.

——————————————————————————————————————

 Uschi Obermaier met communard Rainer Langhans at a concert at the end of 1968 and she soon moved from Munich to the Berlin-based Kommune 1 after Langhans became her boyfriend. They talked openly to the media about their relationship, becoming symbols of the sexual revolution. They became the German version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Kommune 1 was the first politically-motivated commune in Germany, and Obermaier’s name is most intimately connected with the 1960s student rebellions in the minds of many Germans. However, she later said that she had no particular interest in politics, and that she moved into Kommune 1 simply to be close to Langhans. Photos of her at political demonstrations and with members of the Kommune appeared in all the popular magazines of the time. Obermaier went on the Rolling Stones’ 1975 tour and is said to have been involved with both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, as well as with Jimi Hendrix – a visitor to Kommune 1.

Today she lives in Topanga Canyon, California and designs jewelry.

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Achim Bornhak. Written by Bornhak and Olaf Kraemer based on material by C.P. Hant, Dagmar Benke and Mr. Kraemer; director of photography, Benjamin Dernbecher; edited by Peter Przygodda and Sebastian Schultz; produced by Eberhard Junkersdorf and Dietmar Güntsche; released by Dokument Films.. In German and English with English subtitles. Running time: 114 minutes.

 WITH: Natalia Avelon (Uschi Obermaier), Matthias Schweighöfer (Rainer Langhans), David Scheller (Dieter Bockhorn), Victor Noren (Mick Jagger), Milan Peschel (Frieberg), Georg Friedrich (Lurchi), Friederike Kempter (Sabine) and Alexander Scheer (Keith Richards).

Eight Miles High” is a song by the American rock band The Byrds, written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby and first released as a single on March 14, 1966.  The song was subject to a U.S. radio ban shortly after its release, following allegations published in the broadcasting trade journal the Gavin Report regarding perceived drug connotations in its lyrics.

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One thought on “Pras on World Films: EIGHT MILES HIGH

  1. Pingback: PRAS ON WORLD FILMS: Your 2012 Visit Experience Summarized | Praschaudhuri on Films

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