The Source

You could fill a good-sized abandoned quarry with all the books and academic papers written about the Beat generation, and you just might want to. But don't let that put you off Chuck Workman's documentary, which draws together an impressive collection of interviews, film clips, vintage TV footage and other archival materials, and uses them to construct...read more

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You could fill a good-sized abandoned quarry with all the books and academic papers written about the Beat generation, and you just might want to. But don't let that put you off Chuck Workman's documentary, which draws together an impressive

collection of interviews, film clips, vintage TV footage and other archival materials, and uses them to construct a cohesive and sometimes surprising portrait of the Beat legacy. The short, sadly dissipated life of Jack Kerouc, one-time college football star, charismatic author of On the

Road and all-around icon of the Beat generation (and Gap khakis ads), dominates the movie's narrative structure. But the late Alan Ginsberg, whom Workman interviewed at length, is its sober heart; who could have imagined that the disaffected drop-out who saw the best minds of his generation

destroyed by madness would wind up its eminence gris? The usual suspects are, of course, all present and accounted for: poets Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso (whose embittered drunkenness provides some of the movie's least appealing moments); playwright Amiri Baraka;

novelists Ken Kesey, William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles, whose self-imposed Moroccan exile inspired the younger writers. But Workman also includes their modern-day descendants, from playwright Miguel Pinero (Short Eyes) and novelist Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries) to

performers John Leguizamo, Lydia Lunch and Henry Rollins. To break up the talking heads, Workman surrounds the interviews with contemporary images, from Kerouac on the Steve Allen Show to cartoon beatniks and footage from Jack Smith's underground movies Pull My Daisy and Flaming

Creatures. The cumulative effect is enthralling, infuriating and melancholy; even the celebrity readings are, on the balance, a plus. John Turturro's readings from Howl won't make any converts, but Johnny Depp and Dennis Hopper more than do justice to selections from writings by Kerouac

and Burroughs.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: You could fill a good-sized abandoned quarry with all the books and academic papers written about the Beat generation, and you just might want to. But don't let that put you off Chuck Workman's documentary, which draws together an impressive collection of… (more)

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