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The trailer shows scenes not in the final version of the film. These seem to include scenes with Jack Kerouac and others from New York appearing only in brief flashback in the film. As well, a scene of William Burroughs reading a newspaper story to Joan about a fire at a zoo. The phrase "and the hippos were boiled in their tanks" which comes from this story was the title of the unpublished novel by Kerouac and Burroughs about the David Kammerer murder. See more »
Look I think William Burroughs was one of the most important figures in not only post-War literature, but in pop culture generally. His work and ideas, and those of the other Beats, have had enormous repercussions on all kinds of arts, and have directly or indirectly affected many of our lives whether we know it or not. Burroughs life was almost as fascinating as his work, but you wouldn't know it from watching 'Beat', as it manages to condense some fascinatingly uncliched relationships into a soap-like love triangle.
I was suprised at the casting of Kiefer Sutherland at first. He isn't an obvious choice to play Burroughs, but he tries hard to humanise him. Unfortunately the thin script doesn't give him much to go on. Likewise Ron Livingston (best known for 'Office Space') does fairly well as Allen Ginsberg, but the script doesn't convince with it's simplistic, almost stereotypical drawing of a complex figure. Lastly, Courtney Love is fine as Burroughs second wife Joan Vollmer, but once again the writing simplifies a multi-layered person into an easy to grasp "character".
It speaks volumes that Cronenberg's surreal 'Naked Lunch' manages to give a much richer and more convincing depiction of these tragic events than the more "realistic" 'Beat'. Perhaps the only way to really deal with the Beats on screen is to aim closer to the approach of their own poetry and prose. The definitive movie portrayal of Burroughs, Ginsberg and co has yet to made. I hope one does eventuate as it's a story that NEEDS to be told!
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