From 1957 to '63, a cheap, filthy rooming house in the Latin Quarter of Paris became a nerve center for the beat generation as Allen Ginsberg wrote his elegiac "Kaddish," Gregory Corso produced his incendiary "Bomb," and William S. Burroughs assembled many years' worth of satirical writings into the harrowing Naked Lunch
. This documentary by Alan Govenar covers all these events, as well as the artistic experiments of Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, but its tired combination of talking-head interviews, black-and-white photos, generic cool jazz, clumsy reenactments, and tacky animation sequences never amounts to more than a flabby piece of counterculture nostalgia. Governar's biggest asset by far is photographer Harold Chapman, whose striking black-and-white images of the beats have become almost as iconic as the writers themselves. Unfortunately, neither he nor the other aging bohemians who recall the hotel's literary days have anything intimate or revealing to say about the creative lights that burned so brightly inside those dingy rooms.