Editor’s Notes: The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg released on DVD on June 11th courtesy of Cinedigm Entertainment. For more information on The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg as well as additional Cinedigm Entertainment releases visit newvideo.com and follow Cinedigm on Twitter @Cinedigm.
The youthful exuberance of Allen Ginsberg’s poetic spirit shines through despite the man’s age as he proselytizes ideas of chaotic soulful unrest through weary asymmetric eyes and panged face, obfuscated behind oversized glasses, wrinkles, and grey hair. He recites each word of his poetry with the same urgency as the day it was written, each word a critical building block in the overall structure of the firm verbal staccatos that form Ginsberg’s living poetry. Each word is crucial, carefully selected to convey the beautiful unwavering pedantry of Ginsberg’s neurotic and fragile soul. In this video footage toward the end of Ginsberg’s life, he is no longer the “angel-headed hipster” of the fifties or maniacal messiah of humanist hippie movements in the sixties, but still a tuning fork of emotional resonance; when struck delivering his poetry in pitch-perfect reverberations that still stir the consciences of the conscientious. Allen Ginsberg departed this plane of existence in 2006, but his words are ageless, immortal remnants that drum out the beatific beat of his sensitive soul and the ineluctable hardships that forged his captivating insecurities.
He recites each word of his poetry with the same urgency as the day it was written, each word a critical building block in the overall structure of the firm verbal staccatos that form Ginsberg’s living poetry.
Ginsberg historian/friend/filmmaker Jerry Aronson compiles an immaculate collection of interviews and archive footage to paint the complete picture of Allen Ginsberg; a picture that transcended the oversimplifications and classifications of the perpetually perplexed media that would try unsuccessfully at every turn to label and qualify his work as the drug-induced ramblings of a proto-hippie messiah. Despite their best efforts to marginalize the importance of his poetry because of the counterculture undercurrent that permeated his work (a counterculture that he had a pivotal role in spawning) the unabashed genius of Ginsberg’s poetry had the power to enrapture a live studio audience and disarm the straight-laced television hosts with the efficacy of his content and delivery. With wild hair and the ambiguous spirituality of his idiosyncratically steepled fingers he delivered divinely personal poetry that touches the soul of every listener, bringing himself to tears with the weight of his words repeated, read, and recited innumerable times.
Ginsberg’s earnest naiveté made him such an endearing character as he immersed himself in the counterculture movements of the fifties and sixties, but it was hardship that forged his acumen of the human condition. Aronson creates a narrative where the death of a pivotal figure in Ginsberg’s life hit him each decade like ruthless and unyielding clockwork, and his poetry and songs would reflect the profound loss of these figures as he mourned the mother that left him with little more than spiritual turmoil and haunting pleas of “take me home”, the father that gave him the gift of words and the power and importance of delivery, and Jack Kerouac who gave him unconditional friendship and spiritual kinship. Each profound loss helped to inspire new works fueled by the sadness of life’s ubiquitous losses, but he remained optimistic as he cherished and celebrated the beauty that each of these people brought to his life. A 1956 recitation of “Howl” is juxtaposed with a 1992 reading and one can still hear the same level of passion in his voice, but the 1992 recording sounds like a world-weary man making desperate pleas into the indifference of the wind. The characters were all but gone, leaving only pictures, brief recordings, and masterful literature as the only proof of a fascinating era that spawned a visceral and purely American literary movement.
With wild hair and the ambiguous spirituality of his idiosyncratically steepled fingers he delivered divinely personal poetry that touches the soul of every listener, bringing himself to tears with the weight of his words repeated, read, and recited innumerable times.
Jerry Aronson paints a complete and compelling picture of one of America’s greatest poets in The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. We ruminate with the pivotal figures in the Ginsberg’s life as relatives and celebrity friends relate stories of a sweet and tormented man and the childhood that damaged his soul in wonderful ways, creating an artist with the naiveté to think he could change the world and the wonderful and unusual ability to capture its attention. He painted portraits of pain and the angelic underbelly of an affluent America that didn’t want to acknowledge its own festering wounds, but with such vitality and unmitigated potency that it would be forced to feel the irritation, even if it remains unhealed and corrupted by infection.
This is the definitive Ginsberg DVD collection with a wealth of extras that are worth savoring for all six of their endlessly fascinating hours. The documentary itself captures iconic moments such as the first recording of “Howl” and Bob Dylan’s legendary music video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, but the extras capture unseen moments of Ginsberg and the mythological figures of the “Beat Generation”, the unparalleled master of vision, Stan Brakhage, and scenes from a film by Jonas Mekas. Interviews and a wealth of video footage make this unassuming dual DVD package the definitive Allen Ginsberg video portrait that is worth every hour of exploration.
[notification type=”star”]80/100 ~ GREAT. This is the definitive Ginsberg DVD collection with a wealth of extras that are worth savoring for all six of their endlessly fascinating hours.[/notification]