The Source

As he revealed in Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (1991), documentary filmmaker Chuck Workman has a slick and entertaining way of stitching together old footage and practically no analytical or historical insight at all. Consequently, this breezy if terminally square account of the beats and their generation is fairly watchable—especially for its glimpses of the writers themselves (mainly Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder) and some effective readings by John Turturro, Johnny Depp, and Dennis Hopper—but for anyone under 50, this is bound to be more mystifying than enlightening. According to Workman, anything and everything in the pop culture of the 50s, 60s, and 70s is equally germane to the beats (including such irrelevancies as Jack Nicholson humiliating a diner waitress in Five Easy Pieces), yet his footage from the major beat film Pull My Daisy (1959) is so brief that it fails to impart any of the flavor. What I miss here is the magic of reading On the Road for the first time, or the way New York's MacDougal Street in the early 60s (where poets read aloud in coffeehouses) looked a bit like Baghdad, or the experience of smoking dope in cold lofts. Instead this movie offers tons of recycled media fodder, including idiotic stories from Life magazine.

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