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Posts Tagged ‘Allen Ginsberg’
Sharing something you’ve made, a poem, a song, a painting, food, whatever, takes audacity. In this video I tell you a story about a brave performance that has stayed with me for decades… even if I can’t quite remember what it was. Click HERE for the story!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris has travelled the world chronicling the famous and infamous. To find the subject for his latest film “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography” he looked closer to home. Next door in fact, to the home of his friend, portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman.
It’s a film as simple and unpretentious as its subject. In 76 quick minutes Morris lets Dorfman narrate the story in her thick Massachusetts accent. A friendship with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg opened the door for her to take photos of many literary and music stars, including W.H. Auden, Anais Nin, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Local heroes like Jonathan Richman also found their way before her camera but it is the pictures of her family and friends that define her work. “What you’re wearing is OK,” she says. “Who you are is OK. You don’t have to be cosmetized.” It is, she says, an acceptance of “everydayness.”
Much of “The B-Side” takes place in Elsa’s cluttered archive. “A lot of these are mistakes but because they are 20×24 they are too expensive to throw away,” she says. “The ones they don’t take I call the B-side.”
In 1980 she found a format that came to define her work, the Polaroid Land 20×24 camera. Producing large-scale photos became her trademark, although by her own assessment her straightforward approach never brought her fame or media attention.
Perhaps its because the pictures aren’t slick and neither is Elsa. Her work is almost folk art, an outsiders look at the world. She captured her subjects as they are the moment they stood in front of her camera. No touch ups or after effects. The pictures are documents of moments in time, plain and simple. “I am really interested in the surfaces of people,” she says. “I am totally not interest in capturing your soul. I am only interested in how they seem.” Her method was effective. In one newspaper article the mother of a subject raves, “It looks more like Faye than Faye herself.”
“The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography” is a quiet look at Dorfman and the art and life she created. “I was lucky in a way to find the cameras and to like it,” she says. “It’s a real way of being a quote artist and having an offbeat life. Inventing a way of living that is comfortable. It worked. I feel very grateful that it worked.”
If “Kill Your Darlings” was a superhero movie it would be an origin story. Like “Batman Begins,” or “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” which detail the formative years of Bruce Wayne and James Howlett before they made their mark on the world, “Kill Your Darlings” looks at the lives of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs before they became the superheroes of the Beat Generation.
Set in 1944 the film follows Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) through his rebellious years at Columbia College. “There’s more life in this paper, “ he says handing his work into a stuffy college professor (John Callum), “than in all the sonnets you’ve had us read this year.”
The shy wannabe poet falls in with a crowd of intellectuals—William Burroughs (Ben Foster), David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan)—whose ethos rubs against the grain of “square” societal norms. They experiment with drugs, booze, sexuality and their art, laying the groundwork for the Beats, (although that term didn’t come into use until 1948), a loose collective who valued free expression over the accepted communal and political systems of the West.
But all that came later. “Kill Your Darlings” is the groundwork; the opening of Ginsberg’s eyes. Thirteen years before he wrote “Howl,” one of the most famous and controversial American poems, he first explores his homosexuality through an attraction to Carr and opens his mind to new ideas.
It’s a slick, stylish movie that captures the excitement of the time through fast paced editing and lots of shots of Ginsberg furiously typing and smoking. That we’ve seen before in almost every period piece involving writers, but I’d have hoped for more revolutionary filmmaking in a movie about revolutionaries. (For that rent David Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch.”)
Clichés aside director John Krokidas has good performances to work with.
As the manipulative, troublemaking Lucien, DeHaan is perfectly cast. He’s the engine that drives the movie, both thematically—“You were ordinary like every other freshman and I made you extraordinary,” he says to Ginsberg—as well as dramatically. His (SPOILER ALERT) arrest for the murder of his lover Kammerer, and the questions of personal responsibility it raises, takes over the last half hour of the film.
It is Ginsberg’s story, however, and Radcliffe sheds off any hint of Harry Potter to hand in a very good performance. He brings Ginsberg to youthful life, from nebbish to rebel to confident man who proclaims in the film’s final moment, “I am a poet.”
“Kill Your Darlings” makes a few missteps—the closing song by Bloc Party would make jazz fan Kerouac turn over in his grave—but allows the performances to bring the characters to vivid life.