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The Source
The Source
Actors: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Dennis Hopper, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass
Director: Chuck Workman
Genres: Documentary
NR     2000     1hr 28min

Jack kerouac allen ginsberg and william burroughss spawned a movement call the beats that set precedents for the political hippie and spiritual movements of the 1960s and 70s. This is a comprehensive portrait of the beat g...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Dennis Hopper, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass
Director: Chuck Workman
Creators: Andrew Dintenfass, Don Lenzer, Chuck Workman, Hiro Yamagata, James Cady, Mark Apostolon
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Biography, History
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 07/05/2000
Original Release Date: 01/01/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2000
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

'Source' of Inspiration
Ezra R. Friedman | Boston, MA United States | 07/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

""The Source," director Chuck Workman's documentary about the Beat Generation, is as close to communing with a bygone generation as possible. In this examination of the lives of modern American literature's unholy Trinity -- Allen Ginsberg ("HOWL"), Jack Kerouac ("On the Road") and William S. Burroughs ("Naked Lunch") -- and how they unwittingly made thoughts pulse to their own strange beat, Workman's film releases the essence of these legends by casting a spell of media voodoo. Ironically, this same method of divination is responsible for bringing bits of these great personalities into the minds of today's commercially fed youth -- remember the infamous Burroughs Nike ad and the use of Kerouac's image to sell blue jeans? This look back at the fathers of the Beat Generation was filmed before Ginsberg was silenced by cancer in the spring of 1997, yet the poet functions as a spirit-guide not unlike Virgil in Dante's "Inferno." He gently takes us from the initial meeting of the three writers in 1944 at Columbia University to their inspiration by Neal Cassady through the '50s, the Jazz Age and into the '60s with the youthful interpretation of what they started and how it fomented a revolution. Like Dante, we are left on our own for much of the documentary to sort through the barrage of incredible footage, interviews and huge cast of players, which Workman must have sold nearly a pound of his own soul to procure. The surreal nature of Burroughs loading his gun or watching Neal Cassady do a jig by a Volkswagen bus, plunges the audience even deeper into the past by humanizing men whose mythic importance is on the same level as JFK or James Dean. It is these scenes that make "The Source" such a fine record of a lost age. Workman's labor of love is crafted like the best college history courses. We hear exactly what altered the state of the spoken and written word, and the writers' astonishment that they were being emulated and taken so seriously. Burroughs' contempt, Kerouac's confusion and Ginsberg's quiet acceptance of their fame are illuminating to those of us who weren't there or didn't pay close enough attention to the centers of culture. Workman goes a bit astray with his use of reenactments, a decidedly MTV convention that, for the most part, serve only as a minor distraction. It's easy to buy Johnny Depp reciting bits and pieces of Jack Kerouac's works in what looks like a roadside bar, but Dennis Hopper's attempts at sections of Burroughs' "Junky," "Interzone" and "Queer" are terrible. It might be because Hopper is, in fact, a legend unto himself, and it's difficult to see him as another from the same period. (An excellent Burroughs can be seen in David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch" starring Peter Weller as an amalgamated William S.). All is forgiven, though, because the fresh memory of John Turturro's visceral rendition of Ginsberg's "HOWL" outside the Rockland State Hospital in New York City is unforgettable and truly inspired. However, much of the footage is painful, and Workman is determined to present this mythological period by picking at the scabs of time and the recent commercial deification of these people. Scenes of an angry and pickled Kerouac trying to discuss the essence of writing with talk show host Steve Allen -- and then if you can believe it, William F. Buckley -- are quite sobering and make it clear that theirs' was more of a struggle than a party. Then there are the shots of Burroughs that are about as comforting as the cold sweat that lets the addict know he hasn't killed himself. He's young and dangerous, wielding a knife in one scene and a syringe in the next. And although there is a perverse thrill watching the world-famous junky shoot up for the camera, we also get to see the needles in his eyes filled with scorn for anyone unlucky enough to be on the other side of that camera. One can almost feel him looking through the movie screen, searching for the kind of people who will eventually frequent "art houses" to watch films about things that should be read in books. Just when it appears that everything is getting too weird, Ginsberg returns. Wrapped in a blanket and looking so much like his Dantaen counterpart, he glides through the early morning light of New York -- with lines of his poetry materializing on a nearby movie marquee."
The counterculture lives!
Xam | nyc | 04/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a serious documentary on the beat / hippie movement. It has tons of old footage and interviews with many of the most prominent beat figures like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso, Ferlinghetti etc etc. It has historical footage of events like the Democratic National Convention in '68 and the be-in in San Francisco in '67. This is the perfect movie for someone who loves the beats or someone who has never heard of them. I didn't know much about them when i first watched this documentary on PBS, but after watching it i immediately became interested in their movement. I started reading a lot of the major works like On The Road, Naked Lunch, and Howl and turned into a major fan. This movie is exceptionally well-made and presented. It does have some Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp, but they are only reading the works of Beat authors, and do not have a major role. This is just a great documentary which contains valuable information and interviews with major beat characters who have since passed away. This is a must have for any fan of the beats, hippies, yippies, drugs, american literary movements, the counterculture, or just good documentaries in general. I absolutely love it and have watched it several times."
The Glory of the Beatniks.
Bernard Chapin | CHICAGO! USA | 05/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is a fast ride and a lot of fun. It is the furthest thing from a slow-moving documentary. The technical style and flair would appeal to practically any viewer. The Source is glossy and gorgeous. The director's clout is also impressive. Johnny Depp gives a performance monologue as Jack Kerouac and John Torturro gives an emotional reading from "Howl." Dennis Hopper imitates Burroughs as well later in the film. Their efforts are impressive.

Just to let the skeptics out there know, there is no room for doubt in this documentary. The beats are heroes and saviors--and not much else is considered. That some of them were minor talents is brushed over. Massive beat generation fans would give it five stars. A totally sanitized version of William S. Burroughs is presented, and it is implied that Kerouac was only a heterosexual, which is something that most commentators would regard as dubious. The film's attitude towards drug use is rather slanted. One memorable quotation was, "you can overdose on anything including sushi." Well no, not really.

It does not matter though, the movie is an amazing sprint and it succeeds in making itself impossible to turn off."
Moving Beat Montage
Bernard Chapin | 02/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's the Beat Generation! It's the Beat to keep! This fast-paced "documentary" of the Beat Generation is like a moving photo album. There's so much footage that as a rabid Beat fan, I could watch this movie forever! The Source definetely had many good sources and is rich in photos, interviews and footage from Beat events. It shows the influence of the Beat Generation on pop culture of their day and ours. The interviews are a living testament to their influence. John Turtoro, Johnny Depp and Dennis Hopper read from the most famous works of the most famous Beats: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Though low on biographical info, even those who knew nothing of the Beats will walk away with a good sense of their significance."