Best Documentary on Ginsberg

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg filmed by Jerry Aronson, is a 2 DVD director’s cut updated with unseen footage and many extras. It nicely covers Ginsberg’s writing and influences, main life events, media and live performances, mental problems, homosexuality, and American counter-culture of the 50s through to the ’90s when he died.

In this definitive film, he is often referred to as a genius (which he was) and is fondly remembered for his political activity, social protests, and his calmness in the face of ’60s violence. The viewer gets to meet the poet’s poet-friends, family, and many other celebrities (including Joan Baez, Bono, William Burroughs, Johnny Depp, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol, and Bob Dylan). Featured works include Howl, Kaddish, “Father Death Blues”, and “A Ballad of the Skeletons”, the latter which he performs with Paul McCartney.

The film is organized around three deaths: his mentally ill mother’s, his close father’s, and Ginsberg’s own death. There are many extras including 29! interviews; in particular, the ones with Anne Waldman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Philip Glass are wonderfully insightful. The interviews with Ginsberg and Neal Cassidy and Burroughs are a treat and give the viewer a chance to see and hear the latter two. There are also readings by Ginsberg, his memorial, his photo exhibition, and scenes from his last three days. Overall, Ginsberg comes across as a poet mainly preoccupied with death, politics, love, and ecstasy in various manifestations. Guaranteed to alter your consciousness and sense of poetry. Highly recommended.

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