Commune (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes

Commune (2006)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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During the social upheaval of the early 1970s, utopian communities dotted the American landscape. They aimed to reshape the world with "free love" and common property, and they excited controversy and fear amongst local residents across the country. Premised on the idea of "Free Land for Free People," and financed by the largesse of Hollywood celebrities, the founders of Black Bear bought land deep in the wilderness and raised a rough-hewn homestead. Over the years, hundreds would join the community, and life would be complicated by conflicts about the role of women, child-rearing, proper communalist behavior, the FBI and, most traumatically, a child-snatching cult. Although the idea of communes is now often relegated to a naive past, "Commune" documents a successful and lasting, if controversial, legacy at the Black Bear Ranch--and provides a window on the social and economic forces that have fueled the resurgence in communal living. Although they now call themselves "intentional communities," which are often rooted in practical considerations as much as ideology, all kinds of groups--including eco-conscious grad students and forward-thinking retirees--now carry on the legacy of cooperative living.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Jonathan Berman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 23, 2007
Five Points Media - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Commune

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (13)

Commune channels a bygone era of drop-outs living an American dream on the Free Love frontier. This is the happy alternative to the apocalyptic California sub-cultures of Charles Manson and the Rev. Jim Jones.

Full Review… | February 23, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Watching Jonathan Berman's affectionate documentary, Commune, about the influential establishment in Siskiyou County, brought to mind the recent documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.

Full Review… | February 23, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Commune gets at the central, seductive paradoxes inherent in so much counterculture belief and practice.

Full Review… | February 22, 2007
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Fitfully interesting, but would have benefited from tighter focus and finer detail.

Full Review… | November 9, 2006
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

It's good to hear people talking about openheartedness without irony.

Full Review… | November 9, 2006
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

It's fascinating to see how the Black Bears got onto their current path, but we don't see enough of the journey.

Full Review… | November 3, 2006
AV Club
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Commune

[font=Century Gothic]"Commune" is a satisfactory documentary about the Black Bear Ranch which was founded in 1968 by Richard and Elsa Marley as a secluded refuge in Siskiyou County, California where people could reject the competitive nature of society, be themselves and work together in peace. Despite the collective nature of the commune, what was needed here is a single voice to give a straightforward history of the ranch which is apparently still going strong today, thus avoiding being just another cliche of the 1960's. At the same time, there is too much emphasis on the present day activities of the founders(gee, that Peter Coyote guy certainly did well for himself...) who eventually left the commune to return to the outside world. Even though the documentary is not as deep as it could have been, there is testimony on how women contributed to the workforce and the improvised healthcare.("The Business of Being Born" made a better connection between the communes and the rise in natural childbirth.) So, there was definitely more going on here than the grainy amateur footage of liberated people running around naked would attest to.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Well assembled and interesting. The big grin happens when they are raided and the fuzz confiscate all their *tomato* plants.


COMMUNE did the trick for me, even though it also seriously disappointed. I've been waiting for a long time for a movie that suggests the scope of our amazing intentions and our earnest dedication to creating a new world, with little to guide us, no formal leadership, and little to support us in the effort. I am a veteran of urban collectives (Washington DC, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland), as opposed to rural communes such as the one memorialized in this film. The difference is profound, of course, but the similarities are also remarkable. It's impossible to describe to folks who "weren't there" how uniform our precepts were, across the country and between venues, and all of it decades before the Internet! This movie kicked up so many memories, observations, questions, thoughts, and new perspectives, that I can't adequately summarize my experience with it, and it isn't over yet. As for COMMUNE's one huge disappointment? I had been longing to hear actual dialogue from the day. What was preserved here is silent (and salacious) footage clearly taken by a male of the group (and all of us feminists were very aware that sexism was the biggest and oldest bear of 'em all). When you consider that all we did all day long in the urban counterpart "families" was "shoot the holy sh*t," -- constantly analyzing, with thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and all that jazz -- well, that's a very large gap, and a misrepresentation of what the movement -- as I experienced it -- was all about. If you want an idea of how we thought (and talked and spent our time and energy), listen to a few of the women who were quoted from the present day. There are still glimpses there of the language we used and traces of the earnestness

Barbara Henry

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