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The Source (1999).

May 4, 2010

The Scoop:
This celebration of the Beats is not so much a documentary as a cinematic mash note, but even non-fans will find this an intriguing history lesson and literary excursion.

Filmmaker Chuck Workman focuses on the three usual suspects (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs), interspersing archival footage with interviews and readings by Johnny Depp (as Kerouac), John Turturro (Ginsberg) and Dennis Hopper (Burroughs). Discussion of their work is liberally mixed with discussion of their friendship and personal lives, as well as loving tributes from a whole host of famous admirers, like Jerry Garcia, Philip Glass, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey. It’s a great big hipster bebop lovefest.

“The Source” is not objective by any documentary standards, but a wonderful tribute to the personalities behind this landmark literary movement. The film is a valuable resource to anyone wanting to understand the Beats, but not as valuable as reading their work itself. Go read “On the Road,” “Howl” or “The Naked Lunch,” then go out and start your own revolution.

Best Line:
“He’s the first person I met who, he himself, was the art.” (Garcia describing Kerouac’s muse, Neal Cassady.)

Side Note:
Workman has also produced and directed documentaries about Andy Warhol, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and the Three Stooges.

Companion Viewing:
“Naked Lunch” (1995) and “The Last Time I Committed Suicide” (1996).


Take a Look:
Depp as Kerouac:

Turturro reads “Howl”:

The Beats light the fuse of the ’60s counterculture explosion (plus the deaths of Cassady and Kerouac, all with Japanese subtitles):

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