Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time

Alison Ellwood

IndieLisboa 2020 •

Documentary, 2020, 160′

In mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, Laurel Canyon was the epicentre of the counterculture. Many musical events took place there and many rock stars lived at that place. Alison Ellwood’s documentary uses rare videos, outtakes, demos and photos in order to pull the curtain on that mythical period, make us go back in time and explore the stories of musicians like Mamas and the Papas, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Doors or Frank Zappa.

Somewhat bigger than a neighborhood and smaller than a city. It watched closely the Los Angeles metropolis, but the orography and the surrounding nature acted as a protection from it. In the 1960s, Laurel Caynon was one of the epicenters of the musical American counterculture that defined the decade. Impressive as it may seem, it seemed everyone found a home, shelter and inspiration there: The Mamas And The Papas, The Doors, Love, Franz Zappa, Joni Mitchell, The Monkees, Neil Young and Stephen Stills’ Buffalo Springfield, Gene Clark and David Crosby’s Byrds – therefore, also Crosby, Stills & Nash. Them and those who came, guided by them, which could be The Beatles, Bob Dylan or Dennis Hopper. 

“Laurel Canyon: A Place In Time” tells us, as the title goes, the story of a time and a place. Someone calls it “the garden of Eden”, but this is a garden made of electric sounds and the ambition to create in those mountain houses a new reality – free, creative and brotherly. Then came Charles Manson, time passed by, success corrupted brotherhood and youth experienced an heads-on collision with life outside that idyllic bubble. The fascinating and inspiring Laurel Canyon was inevitably doomed to fail, but that, in fact, only adds to the romanticism of the echo we still hear calling from the distance. (Mário Lopes)