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Allen Ginsberg Feat. Paul McCartney & Philip Glass & Lenny Kaye: Ballad of the Skeletons (1997)

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May 1997 (USA)  »

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It all comes together
17 October 2002 | by See all my reviews

Having just seen this approximately four minute film on the big screen, I am awash in admiration. A close-up of Allen Ginsberg reciting his "skeletons" poem is bluescreened and dissolved against archival film and video clips, and backed by musicians to create a sort of song that becomes an American anthem. These clips predominantly feature images of the Dole/Clinton presidential campaign, but also include familiar and disturbing 1960s civil rights conflicts. The immediacy of Ginsberg looking and speaking full-on into the camera, to us, is striking and impossible to forget.

What does it mean? I wish I could watch it again and decide. Surely Ginsberg and Van Sant have produced more meaningful work separately, but the combination with the music makes a brilliant whole. This is an extension of Van Sant's 1991 filmic version of William S. Burroughs' Thanksgiving poem, and the two short films are weird and poignant tributes to these great writers.


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