Movie Reviews

Movie Review – The Source: The Beat Generation Goes On…

Written by Chuck Workman
Directed by Chuck Workman

The so-called Beat Generation was a whole bunch of people, of all different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society sucked. – Amiri Baraka

Most documentaries I view are about events long past or people who are no longer with us. With The Source, it seems as if writer/director Chuck Workman sensed that many of the people who knew the trio of authors at the center of this social revolution were slipping away one by one and decided to capitalize on using the people who were there rather than making a documentary after the fact.

The Source is a celebration of “The Beat Generation” – a group of artists who were the voices of dissent in the oft-celebrated 1950s. It’s widely believed that their writings were partially responsible for the social counter-culture revolution which took place during the following decade. The three writers at the center of what would be “The Beat Generation” or the Beat Movement were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs.

The Source opens by showing the modern-day impact and reverence these three have garnered. The declaration of “Allen Ginsberg Day” in Boulder is shown, along with modern-day readings of Jack Kerouac at NYU, and William Burroughs participating in a teleconference at a college.

What follows is a collection of film clips intertwined with interviews of the subjects, along with commentary. I loved the readings by Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, and John Turturro. By far, Johnny Depp exceeded the other two actors with his readings. It definitely didn’t seem to me as if any of them were doing this for compensation, but more because they knew the writings and it meant something to them. The readings are done with such passion and emotion that I found myself more interested in the writings by these authors, although Hopper and Turturro’s performance seemed as if they were trying to force the audience to listen to the words, rather than let the words stand on their own as was the case, I felt, with Depp’s readings.

The Source highlights the publication of Kerouac’s On The Road as the beginning of the entry of these three men and their writings into the public eye. Many other prominent books of the writers of this time period are discussed, such as Howl by Allen Ginsberg which is from the time he spent in a mental institution after a minor prank. It’s believed to be his message to a friend still in the institution about what was going on in the outside world at the time. Readings of various works of poetry and excerpts from novels are handled by the authors themselves in unearthed clips and act as a sort of historical timeline as to the events which led to the “hippies” and beyond.

From a historical perspective, The Source brings into focus why a lot of what happened in the sixties happened, including how San Francisco became such a focal point for the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s and how it became the creative literary meeting place for many of these bohemian writers in this generation.

As a historical documentary, it really opened my eyes as to why the sixties happened as well as who some of these people are who I always heard about but were never quite sure what they were famous for. There are some terrific clips of Lenny Bruce, Ken Kesey, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and more. I think a lot of people will learn a lot from this. Other who already know who these people were and what the sixties were all about will enjoy it for the clips and readings of the people of this time period, many of which haven’t been seen in years.

There are some funny television clips that made fun of these authors, lest anyone think The Source takes itself and its material too seriously. One of the ones I personally found to be the funniest was Star Trek: The Beat Generation.

All in all, The Source gives me hope. If the counter-culture movement that happened in the 60s could have its roots in the contempt for society in the 1950s, then there’s hope for another revolution with this climate we’re currently in.

Special Features:

– Trailer
– Production Credits
– Bibliographies & Awards

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