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The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Product Description

For 25 years, Academy Award®-nominated director Jerry Aronson accumulated more than 120 hours of film on Allen Ginsberg, resulting in this comprehensive portrait of one of America s greatest poets, author of Howl and other groundbreaking poems. The DVD includes exclusive and revealing interviews with his friends, family and contemporaries as well as never-before-seen materials made public through the close friendship forged between subject and filmmaker. The film acts as a contextual overview of the last 60 years of American culture, from the Beat era through the uncertainty of current times.

Special Features

  • Exclusive Interviews; Making Of Featurette; Ginsberg poem readings; Further extended and deleted scenes featuring Bob Dylan, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady; Photo gallery; Theatrical Trailer; Memorial for Allen Ginsberg; and more


Fiercely funny and moving --Rolling Stone

Splendid! A great American story --Los Angeles Times

A very rich slice of cultural history, lovingly presented. --Boston Globe

Product Details

  • Actors: Allen Ginsberg, William F. Buckley, William S. Burroughs, Joan Baez, Abbie Hoffman
  • Directors: Jerry Aronson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: May 14, 2013
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00B9LNP9C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,429 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JAV on May 18, 2007
Format: DVD
The film at 85 minutes is amazing. The extras at over 6.5 hours are incredible. This DVD set is a source of all things Beat that I will be looking back at for years. It is beautifully arranged so that you can watch many extras on the same disc as the feature and also watch 35 interviews on Disc 2 including so many friends of Allen who also happened and happen to be cultural phenomenon's in their own right including Baez, Beck, Bono, Brakhage, Burroughs, Depp, Glass, Hoffman, Kesey, Leary, McCartney, Sonic Youth, Ono, Patti Smith, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol and so many more!

Also, Allen reads poetry to the camera for over 30 minutes, talks with Neal Cassidy in the basement of City Light in 1965 for almost 20 minutes, and reminisces with William Burroughs in 1984 at Naropa in Boulder, CO.

I can go on and on but this heartfelt collection made me want to read more of Ginsberg's poetry and remember a man who was truly a pacifist and helped make the world a better and more peaceful place. How we need that today!!!!!Here is a recent New York Times review on the DVD:

"The New York Times"
Jerry Aronson has augmented his crisp, straightforward 1993 documentary portrait of the poet Allen Ginsberg with six hours of extra material for this double-disc release, which now makes it a scholarly resource as well as a remarkably clearheaded study of a singularly complex individual.

Mr. Aronson's film follows Ginsberg from his middle-class upbringing in New Jersey through the media explosion that was the Beat movement, his role in the flowering youth movement of the 1960s and his last years as a devoted Buddhist and political activist.
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Format: DVD
This DVD release of "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg" might catch your eye if you are a fan of the poet and revolutionary. The film itself premiered as part of the PBS American Masters series in 1994 after its run on the festival circuit in 1993. It has been released in DVD form on different occasions, most recently in 2007 to align with the fiftieth anniversary of "Howl." That 2 disc set combined both the movie feature with over six hours (yes, six) of Bonus features. That edition and the previous ones have been out of print for some time, so Docurama is picking up the mantle and re-releasing the picture. I mention all of this to clarify that this is NOT a new title. You may have seen it and you may already own it. This release is exactly the same in content as the 2007 DVD, so please do not double dip. If, however, you new to the Ginsberg phenomenon or have not seen the movie than it is an easy recommendation.

At 84 minutes, the movie itself is but a snap shot of Ginsberg and his accomplishments. There is far more comprehensive material to be found if you are so inclined. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the style of the film, it is fairly straightforward in presentation. Some areas of focus include the Beat Generation period and his development of friendships with William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. His rise to activism in the fifties and sixties gets solid coverage, his thoughtful challenges to the status quo and his connection with Timothy Leary are also explored. Perhaps the culmination of his protests occurred with the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The film also addresses the personal side of Ginsberg including his sexuality and how that influenced him in his role.
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Format: DVD
There are two features of Ginsberg's personality that come through over and over in this intriguing documentary: he was a deeply wounded man, and he was a deeply lovable one. The two were obviously connected: Ginsberg's wounds made him both vulnerable and compassionate. They could also make him rage against a world that condoned war and injustice, and all of these sides of him come through in his poetry.

Ginsberg's ur-wound was the tragedy of his mother, a remarkable woman who sadly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was in and out of institutions during Ginsberg's youth, and finally died in one. As a boy, Ginsberg was frequently charged with her care. As his stepmother says in the film, he was exposed to way too much for a young boy to take in. His feelings of helplessness, frustration, impatience, love, guilt, and fear in the face of his mom's illness and increasingly bizarre behavior marked him for life. Thankfully, his relationship with his father Louis, a lyric poet, was one of tenderness, mutual respect, and deep love.

Ginsberg's unhappy relationship with his mother, as well as his genesis from beat poet to cosmic poet to Buddhist poet to grand old man of American poetry is tracked in the film. Especially welcome are the long and marvelous clips of Ginsberg reading his poetry: long sections of "Howl," all of "Kaddish," and others, sometimes put in music. There's also a clip from Ginsberg's appearance on Buckley's "Firing Line," in which the two men stood one another down. Lots of vintage still photography and cinema featuring the beat poets round out the documentary.

The one thing missing in the film was more than a brief mention of Ginsberg's lifelong relationship with Peter Orlovsky.
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