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USA, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Documentaries)

Director: Chuck Workman

Chuck Workman's exemplary enquiry into the Beats takes a longer view than the typical canonisation of goatees, jazz and reefer that bogs down too many similar projects. The director places his work in context by tracing the history of cultural and artistic rebellion and follows up with an examination of the impact of the Beats since their golden age. The core of The Source is an in-depth look at the three pillars of the movement and Workman's loose hypothesis concerning their respective roles: Jack Kerouac as swaggering, hard-drinking, macho brawler; Allen Ginsberg as sensitive, gay, poet transgressor; William S. Burroughs as enigmatic intellectual, borderline psycho and dangerous mind.

The material Workman utilises to illustrate each section of his documentary is captivating. He has trawled archives for home movies, official visual records, arcane interviews, happenings and meetings, and then tapped into Hollywood history for even more evidence of his theories. Nothing is sacred with Bob Hope and Bob 'Gilligan' Denver parodying Beat hepcats. In a casting coup, Workman has roped in Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper and John Turturro to re-enact readings by Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, respectively.

The Source is a valuable addition to the examination of the Beats as the influential beginnings of 20th Century counter-cultural rebellion. Workman makes a very strong case for their crucial contribution to every significant youth movement since, and a highly entertaining and enlightening documentary to boot.

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