In the early 1940s, Allen Ginsberg is an English major at Columbia University, only to learn more than he bargained for. Dissatisfied by the orthodox attitudes of the school, Allen finds himself drawn to iconoclastic colleagues like Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Together, this gang would explore bold new literary ideas that would challenge the sensibilities of their time as the future Beat Generation. However, for all their creativity, their very appetites and choices lead to more serious transgressions that would mark their lives forever. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The Columbia University library tour guide proudly identifies a book as a first folio edition of "Hamlet." There is no such edition. "Hamlet" was published in quarto editions (half the size of folio) during Shakespeare's life. The only folio editions of Shakespeare's work were the posthumous collections of his complete plays. See more »
Another lover hits the universe. The circle is broken. But with death comes rebirth. And like all lovers and sad people, I am a poet.
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Well, how ironic that a film based on the giants of the Beat Generation, the literary revolution that cleaved the 20th Century in half, would collapse under the weight of a badly written, two dimensional, screenplay. There is no shortage of compelling story lines involving the writers who led this revolution; Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr, or William S. Burroughs (murdered his wife playing William Tell with a bow and arrow and got a way with it, oops).
The storyline they chose was the murder committed by Lucien Carr where he stabbed and drown a former lover, David Kammerer. There should be plenty to work with here. But rather than focusing the 90 minutes of screen time on developing anything meaningful about the literary movement, the murder, the murderer, or the victim, we're instead shown snapshots of those things, plus Allen's mentally disturbed mother, Lucien's overly involved mother, a prank they commit at the library on the Columbia University campus, Jack Kerouac's complicated personal life, university stuff, other stuff, and then more stuff. The context in which this murder occurs, and the literary revolution, is everywhere, and nowhere. And in the end you could care less about any of them or what they did.
I recall hearing a lot about this film while it was in production. The hype was intense because of the real life characters, what they did, and who was playing them. I do not recall the film ever being released. Perhaps it was. But it just seemed to disappear quietly and was forgotten. I saw something about it years later somewhere and thought to myself, "Oh yeah, that. Wonder what happened to that film." After purchasing the DVD and watching it, it is easy to see why it was smothered in its crib and buried in the backyard. Which is a shame because the story is there, some of the acting is quite good, but none of that can, or ever will, overcome bad writing. Which was kind of the point of the Beat Generation to begin with. If you can see it for free and have nothing better to do with 90 minutes of your life it won't kill you to watch it. It won't give you any enjoyment either.
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