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The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (Deluxe Two-Disc Set)
The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg
Deluxe Two-Disc Set
Actors: Joan Baez, William F. Buckley, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman
Director: Jerry Aronson
Genres: Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2007     1hr 22min

The re-release of Jerry Aronson's biopic, The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, timed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of "Howl," suits this wonderful documentary and proves Ginsberg central to all radical artistic an...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Joan Baez, William F. Buckley, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman
Director: Jerry Aronson
Creators: Jean de Segonzac, Richard Lerner, Roger Carter, Jerry Aronson, Antony Cooper, Nathaniel Dorsky
Genres: Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, Documentary, Biography, History, Gay & Lesbian, Military & War, Politics
Studio: New Yorker Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 07/17/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 22min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

JAV | Denver, CO | 05/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The film at 85 minutes is amazing. The extras at over 6.5 hours are incredible. This DVD set is a source of all things Beat that I will be looking back at for years. It is beautifully arranged so that you can watch many extras on the same disc as the feature and also watch 35 interviews on Disc 2 including so many friends of Allen who also happened and happen to be cultural phenomenon's in their own right including Baez, Beck, Bono, Brakhage, Burroughs, Depp, Glass, Hoffman, Kesey, Leary, McCartney, Sonic Youth, Ono, Patti Smith, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol and so many more!

Also, Allen reads poetry to the camera for over 30 minutes, talks with Neal Cassidy in the basement of City Light in 1965 for almost 20 minutes, and reminisces with William Burroughs in 1984 at Naropa in Boulder, CO.

I can go on and on but this heartfelt collection made me want to read more of Ginsberg's poetry and remember a man who was truly a pacifist and helped make the world a better and more peaceful place. How we need that today!!!!!Here is a recent New York Times review on the DVD:

"The New York Times"
Jerry Aronson has augmented his crisp, straightforward 1993 documentary portrait of the poet Allen Ginsberg with six hours of extra material for this double-disc release, which now makes it a scholarly resource as well as a remarkably clearheaded study of a singularly complex individual.

Mr. Aronson's film follows Ginsberg from his middle-class upbringing in New Jersey through the media explosion that was the Beat movement, his role in the flowering youth movement of the 1960s and his last years as a devoted Buddhist and political activist. Those interviewed range from close friends and family members to artists whose relationship to Ginsberg was more remote (Beck, Bono and Johnny Depp, while the footage Mr. Aronson has gathered includes lengthy excerpts from Ginsberg's 1998 memorial tribute at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Ginsberg and Bob Dylan visiting Jack Kerouac's grave, a 1965 reading with Neal Cassady at the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and sequences from Jonas Mekas's touching record of Ginsberg's wake, "Scenes From Allen's Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit."

Kaddish & cosmos
Kerry Walters | Lewisburg, PA USA | 07/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There are two features of Ginsberg's personality that come through over and over in this intriguing documentary: he was a deeply wounded man, and he was a deeply lovable one. The two were obviously connected: Ginsberg's wounds made him both vulnerable and compassionate. They could also make him rage against a world that condoned war and injustice, and all of these sides of him come through in his poetry.

Ginsberg's ur-wound was the tragedy of his mother, a remarkable woman who sadly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was in and out of institutions during Ginsberg's youth, and finally died in one. As a boy, Ginsberg was frequently charged with her care. As his stepmother says in the film, he was exposed to way too much for a young boy to take in. His feelings of helplessness, frustration, impatience, love, guilt, and fear in the face of his mom's illness and increasingly bizarre behavior marked him for life. Thankfully, his relationship with his father Louis, a lyric poet, was one of tenderness, mutual respect, and deep love.

Ginsberg's unhappy relationship with his mother, as well as his genesis from beat poet to cosmic poet to Buddhist poet to grand old man of American poetry is tracked in the film. Especially welcome are the long and marvelous clips of Ginsberg reading his poetry: long sections of "Howl," all of "Kaddish," and others, sometimes put in music. There's also a clip from Ginsberg's appearance on Buckley's "Firing Line," in which the two men stood one another down. Lots of vintage still photography and cinema featuring the beat poets round out the documentary.

The one thing missing in the film was more than a brief mention of Ginsberg's lifelong relationship with Peter Orlovsky. Ginsberg does say at one point, quite touchingly, that he and Peter made life vows to one another, and a rather vague reference to Orlovsky's later mental and alcohol troubles is made. But the relationship is for the most part passed over in silence.

A good film, both for fans of Ginsberg's poetry and those who know it only by hearsay. A fitting Kaddish for a man who's heart and imagination stretched cosmically."
From "Howl" To OM
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 09/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Recently I have been in a "beat" generation literary frame of mind. It all started last summer when I happened to be in Lowell, Massachusetts on some personal business. Although I have more than a few old time connections with that now worn out mill town I had not been there for some time. While walking in the downtown area I found myself crossing a small park adjacent to the site of a well-known mill museum and restored textile factory space. Needless to say, at least for any reader with a sense of literary history, at that park I found some very interesting memorial stones inscribed with excerpts from a number of his better known works dedicated to Lowell's "bad boy", the "king of the 1950s beat writers, Jack Kerouac. And, just as naturally, when one thinks of Kerouac then Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassidy and a whole ragtag assortment of poets, hangers-on, groupies and genuine madmen and madwomen come to mind. So that is why we are under the sign of one Allen Ginsberg.

As I pointed out in recent review of a film documentary about the life of Jack Kerouac, "What Happened To Kerouac? (which I gave a five-star rating to, by the way) I was just a little too young to be directly influenced by the "beats", and just a little too driven by the quest for political solutions for what ailed me and what I thought ailed this society. Nevertheless, as I recounted in that review entitled, "On The Road" And On The Sidelines", after I came of political age I kind of crept back, like a million other members of the "Generation of `68" and re-evaluated that influence. In short then, starting with Kerouac's "On The Road", through William Burroughs "Naked Lunch" and on to Ginsberg's madman-like, but provocative, "Howl" and sensitive "Kaddish" I devoured every "beat" thing I could get my hands on.

And that last sentence is a good place to start in reviewing this one and one half hour production about the trials and tribulations, the fight for literary recognition and the journey of discovery of one hell of a beat poet, Allen Ginsberg. The film speeds through the now rather familiar saga (for that generation that was born between World War I and II and formed the core of what is deemed "the greatest generation") of a dysfunctional Jewish immigrant family, additionally burdened by a very overwrought and frequently institutionalized mother. The real story for our purposes, however, starts in 1940s New York where some very alienated youth like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Holmes, etc. and their mentors like Burroughs meet up and start a quest, literarily and physically, to `discover' America. And they do it on their terms, at least for a while.

Along the way Ginsberg becomes very aware of his innate poetic skills, his previously submerged sexual orientation and his almost surreal sense of the absurdities of living in post-war America, at least on the "squares" terms. Things begin to happen though. His "Howl" is premiered in San Francisco in 1956 to critical acclaim, Kerouac's "On The Road" finally gets published to rave reviews and suddenly in Eisenhower's America it becomes almost a rite of passage for the young to show up at some poetry reading in some smoky café, or dress in the de rigueur black, or like black-driven jazz. And that is where my generation and I come in. That is where, if nothing else, we owe a debt to the beats- and to the king hell beat poet who, unlike Kerouac who couldn't, or wouldn't, make the transition, came over with us when we started pushing back.

And that is the positive side of the Ginsberg story, the ability to transition, as least partially, as the leftward cultural currents shifted. I would not, and I believe psychologically could not, go on that psychic consciousness-raising trip that led him to Buddhism for a while. Moreover, in viewing the film of his role in the 1968 Democratic Convention as a messenger of tranquility only brought the hard fact that that was not the way to fight the monster home. But, I was then as I am now very indulgent toward the poetic spirits, the protest song singers, and the other cultural figures who "rage against the monster", politically correct or not. What bothered me more than anything though was Ginsberg's fate in his later career when he was no longer front and center in the public eye. In one of the many Ginsberg interview segments that dot this documentary, which was produced in 1994 just a few years before he died he notes, I believe while he is reciting one of his poems that one of his life achievements that he was proud of was that his had become a distinguished professor (I assume, of literature) at Brooklyn College. That is an unpardonable sin Brother Ginsberg. Where did you go wrong?

Note: One of the great things about this documentary, from a personal perspective, were the great number of evocative photographs, including many taken by the closet "shutter-bug" Ginsberg himself, of various personalities of the "beat" generation that I had not seen before like the young Ginsberg, Burroughs (was he ever young?), Cassidy and Kerouac. Additionally, for poetry buffs, there are number of segments included where Ginsberg read from his works (and with his poet father in join readings, as well). You do not know how really good and provocative "Howl" and "Kaddish" are as poems of rage and remembrance, respectively, until you hear his readings

An absorbing look at "The Beat Generation" of the '50's and
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 04/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"No study of the 1950's and 1960's cultural revolution in the USA would be complete without the poetry and bohemian life-look at poet Allen Ginsberg and those of "The Beat Generation." The 1960's just didn't happen; the groundwork was laid in the 1950's with the writers and the poets and the musicians who began to eschew The Establishment, embrace peace, do drugs, sexually experiment, and put it all down into their art. This film is currently showing on ON DEMAND and I was fortunate enough to see all 480 minutes of it. Being born in 1955, I learned a lot, frankly way more, than I myself ever knew about the times. I have yet to see a more complete and absorbing film chronicalling the soul and heart of the Era. Highly recommended.
A nice complimentary film to this one would be Across the Universe (Two-Disc Special Edition), but simply as an aid with some music."