Two friends teaching psychology at Harvard in the early 1960s, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, unwittingly set out on a lifelong picaresque as their experiments in expanded consciousness with the psychedelic likes of LSD lead them in different directions. The affectionate “Dying To Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary,” drawing on five decades of material, is a capable portrait of the two men, one of whom became a lysergic figurehead, and the other becoming Ram Dass, spiritual searcher and teacher of compassion. “Death… the ultimate taboooo,” Leary croons as Gay Dillingham’s documentary opens. Eclectic clips are embroidered with tacky editing devices. But beyond the central intellectual love story, the straight-on interviews, rich with garrulous talk on the final destination of us all, including John Perry Barlow, fascinate for their articulate thoughtfulness. Narrated by Robert Redford. 95m. (Ray Pride)
“Dying To Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary” opens August 19 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.