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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
NEW YORK TIMES & THE BOSTON GLOBEMay 18 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Kaddish & cosmosJuly 12 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A 2013 Re-Release Of the Classic Ginsberg Documentary: Same Movie, Same Features As 2007 2-Disc SetJune 7 2013
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This DVD release of "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg" might catch your eye if you are a fan of the poet and revolutionary. The film itself premiered as part of the PBS American Masters series in 1994 after its run on the festival circuit in 1993. It has been released in DVD form on different occasions, most recently in 2007 to align with the fiftieth anniversary of "Howl." That 2 disc set combined both the movie feature with over six hours (yes, six) of Bonus features. That edition and the previous ones have been out of print for some time, so Docurama is picking up the mantle and re-releasing the picture. I mention all of this to clarify that this is NOT a new title. You may have seen it and you may already own it. This release is exactly the same in content as the 2007 DVD, so please do not double dip. If, however, you new to the Ginsberg phenomenon or have not seen the movie than it is an easy recommendation.
At 84 minutes, the movie itself is but a snap shot of Ginsberg and his accomplishments. There is far more comprehensive material to be found if you are so inclined. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the style of the film, it is fairly straightforward in presentation. Some areas of focus include the Beat Generation period and his development of friendships with William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. His rise to activism in the fifties and sixties gets solid coverage, his thoughtful challenges to the status quo and his connection with Timothy Leary are also explored. Perhaps the culmination of his protests occurred with the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The film also addresses the personal side of Ginsberg including his sexuality and how that influenced him in his role.
Filmmaker Jerry Aronson compiled material about Ginsberg for 25 years. While the movie is a nice, albeit brief, introduction, true enthusiasts will want to check out the DVD Bonus material. While I would give the movie four stars, the DVD is really a five star affair due to the sheer scope of additional material. KGHarris, 6/13.
Exclusive Interviews including Joan Baez, Beck, Bono, Stan Brakhage, William Burroughs, Johnny Depp, Philip Glass, Abbie Hoffman, Jack Johnson, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Paul McCartney, Jonas Mekas, Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Lee Ranaldo, Ed Sanders, Patti Smith, Hunter S.Thompson, Andy Warhol, and more! The Making of The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac's Grave William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg at Naropa University Ginsberg reading selected poems Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg at City Lights Bookstore The making of the music video A Ballad of the Skeletons Ginsberg guides us through an exhibition of his photographs Excerpts from Scenes from Allen's Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit, by Jonas Mekas Memorial for Allen Ginsberg Ginsberg's photo gallery Director's photo gallery Web info Director's Bio Original theatrical trailer
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
From "Howl" To OMSept. 13 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
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
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
poet and muse Allen Ginsberg (Deluxe Two-Disc Set)Sept. 29 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
The extraordinary life and times of Allen Ginsberg are profiled in this straightforward tribute documentary. I can't recall gaining any new insights or knowledge of Ginsberg, *but* I had already done my homework on the Beats and all that when, like so many others, I was a fascinated teenager. What I did experience was again being made aware of how much Ginsgerg's life connected with and that it was better through his having been a part of it. Not only was he a Beat poet but a great muse to many, many artists. I dare say I find that aspect of his life the most interesting. America is better because Ginsberg lived. He was a peacemaker, an activist, and a really nice and lovable guy. This film serves as a solid introduction to the famous countercultural icon's story as it is told with ample footage and through many interviews with his many famous friends and admirers: Beck, Bono, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Michael McClure, Norman Mailer, Amiri Baraka, Ken Kesey, William S. Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anne Waldman and Timothy Leary... Excerpts of discussions with William Buckley and Dick Cavett are also included. The DVD set includes over 6 hours of extras. Must have for fans.