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."
"The Boston Globe"
Beating the drum for a poet-visionary
Desk officers at the State Department have a term for what befalls colleagues stationed abroad: "clientism." It describes what happens when diplomats get so caught up in the opinions, attitudes, and needs of the country they're stationed in that their dispatches begin to take on a native coloration. They end up unconsciously representing their "client" country more than they do the United States.
Something similar tends to occur among documentary filmmakers. Spending so much time with their subjects, they make the person or persons they're shooting their client - rather than the viewers they're shooting for. What this all too often results in are documentaries that meander, overflow, and otherwise go on too long. The miraculous thing about Jerry Aronson's "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg" is its concision. It weighs in at a quite taut 84 minutes, this despite the remarkably full and varied life of the great Beat poet-visionary, as well as the onscreen presence of numerous family members and friends.
First released in 1993, then in a revised version in 2012 (15 years after Ginsberg's death), Aronson's film is a labor of love. He spent a dozen years filming Ginsberg - we see him reading his poetry, answering questions, conversing with old pals like William Burroughs - yet there's a sense of every frame and syllable mattering.
If anyone could be forgiven for suffering from documentary clientism, it's Aronson. The capaciousness of the DVD format now lets him indulge the temptations he avoided in the film. So let's hear it for indulgence. We get a two-minute look at Ginsberg and Bob Dylan visiting Jack Kerouac's grave, in Lowell. There are snippets of film Jonas Mekas shot of Ginsberg during his last few dying days. There are also 25 minutes of footage recording Ginsberg and Neal Cassady at San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, in 1965. (That sound you hear in the background isn't cable cars - it's the shifting of cultural tectonic plates.)
A second disc includes footage from a memorial service for Ginsberg at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, as well as excerpts from the extensive interviews Aronson conducted with friends and associates. How extensive? We get Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol, Philip Glass, Ken Kesey, Stan Brakhage, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Paul McCartney (you get the idea), as well as such latter-day admirers as Beck, Bono, and Johnny Depp.
This is a very rich slice of cultural history, lovingly presented.