This chronicle of poet-pacifist-sexual outlaw-beat king Allen Ginsberg is a compassionate look at the man and his considerable legacy. Through archival footage and insightful interviews with Ginsberg and such peers as Ken Kesey, Norman Mailer, Joan Baez, William S. Burroughs, and Timothy Leary, you'll get new insight into the life of a true original. 84 min. Soundtrack: English; biography; bonus footage; featurettes; interviews; "making of" documentary; photo gallery; theatrical trailer. Two-disc set.
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 and political movements of the past 60 years. The feature-length film, segmented by decade, provides ample footage of Ginsberg's life; but extras added into this package, including footage of his memorial and 35 interviews with artists inspired by the visionary poet--from Beck to Lawrence Ferlinghetti--solidify Ginsberg as an American cultural icon. The film unravels Ginsberg's obsession for life and death around his mother's nervous breakdown and his father's affinity for poetry. Interviews with Ginsberg from each decade, both amongst his Beat friends like Burroughs and Huncke, and later with talk show hosts William Buckley and Dick Cavett, show the author's progression from sexual politics in the '40s and '50s to the "politics of ecstasy" in the '60s and '70s, when he founded the Flower Power movement with Tim Leary, and later, Naropa Institute. Ample footage of Ginsberg's stepmother provides a sensitive outsider's opinion on how he blossomed into one of the most spontaneous minds of the century. The film transcends simple Ginsberg descriptions by framing his life with historical happenings to contextualize the author's words and actions. The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg reminds the viewer that there is no better example of an artist devoted to a life of letters, activism, and idealism than the original beatnik. --Trinie Dalton