Italian-born Laura Huxley, a teenage violin virtuoso, played for European royalty and made her American debut at Carnegie Hall before leaving the concert stage to become a renowned psychotherapist and author. In 1956 Laura married Aldous Huxley, author of BRAVE NEW WORLD, literary giant and prophet of the 20th century. Narrated by Peter Coyote and featuring interviews with such luminaries as John Densmore, Michael Murphy, Nick Nolte and Ram Dass, HUXLEY ON HUXLEY offers a compelling glimpse of Laura Huxley’s life with Aldous Huxley, as well as the revolutionary and provocative work that had a major influence on American and contemporary cultural history and such key figures as The Beatles, The Doors and Timothy Leary.
In the conservative 1950s, the Huxley home in the Hollywood Hills was the center of the artistic and intellectual avant-garde of Los Angeles. Guests to their famous Saturday luncheons included George Cukor, Igor Stravinsky, Orson Welles and Christopher Isherwood. The Huxleys’ passionate search to find higher levels of consciousness included their controversial experimentation with psychedelic drugs. Narrated by Peter Coyote and featuring interviews with such luminaries as John Densmore, Michael Murphy, Nick Nolte and Ram Dass, HUXLEY ON HUXLEY offers a compelling glimpse of Laura’s life with Aldous, as well as the revolutionary and provocative work that had a major influence on American and contemporary cultural history.
What else can be said about a documentary that has Nick Nolte as a talking head? Not only that, but they also described him as a luminary in the above description…crazy stuff. In any case, it never ceases to amaze me how many interesting and quirky characters that are dug up and told about from decades past and the Huxley home is no exception. It really was like a clashing of two great minds and they just continued to round up the interesting people of the day and hold Saturday luncheons to create a kind of a meeting of the minds. It’s a testament to how thirsty they were for knowledge and how they were always clamoring for more, more, more; that they were able to attract such minds as Welles and Cukor was also a testament to many like-minded individuals there were in the world.
The documentary itself is fairly brief, running under an hour and focusing much on Laura’s early life as well as her life with Aldous. From her early days as a violinist to her later years as a psychotherapist, the documentary traverses much of it, yet it still feels as if the documentary touched only the tip of the iceberg. Director Mary Ann Braubach stated that through her research for the film that the “more I learned about this amazing woman, the larger than life she became.” It’s evident Braubach was going for this very feel, as even though it gives us a good idea of what the Huxley’s lives were like, there’s also a sense of the unknown to it as well (likely stemming from their use of psychedelic drugs, which added a whole exotic element to their history in of itself).
Overall this is a Recommended documentary. Unlike a lot of Docurama Film’s releases, this has a much broader scope than their usually limited focus releases. As such there’s something for everyone here, assuming you find history and interesting people engaging, at least—if not then you can safely ignore this release.
docuramafilms brings Huxley on Huxley to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks like a rather laid back BBC special documentary release more than anything. Video and audio is a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a modern documentary, although it is presented in 1.33:1 which is strange for something made in 2009.
Considering the interesting comments director Braubach had to make in the press release for this film I’d hoped for a commentary from her. Alas the only extras we get is a set of Additional Interviews with Laura Huxley, John Densmore, Ram Dass, Don Bachardy, Huston Smith, Nick Nolte and David Dunaway as well as a Photo Montage. The extra interviews are definitely welcome, but as I said the documentary kind of leaves you with the sense there’s even more to the Huxley’s story to explore.
Overall a Recommended release and one that’d be good to pick up and pass along to friends to enjoy.
Huxley on Huxley arrives on DVD on June 27th.