Interspersed throughout are rather stagy set pieces in which Depp, John Turturro and Dennis Hopper intone passages by Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, respectively.As before, Workman doesn't seem to discern between the culturally significant and the frivolous; nor does he worry much about matching elements chronologically (thus seg on Burroughs' tome "Naked Lunch" is set to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil"). Result is a pacey kaleidoscope that's good fun, and sometimes fleetingly insightful or poignant. But amid the crowded annals of screen Beat-era chronicling (e.g., "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg," "Kerouac," et al.), feature is strictly a freshman 101 course.Tech aspects are first-rate down the line.

The somewhat simplistic notion that all things hip in our century’s latter half derive from the Beat Movement gets an enthusiastic push from “The Source.” As with his prior docus “The First 100 Years” and “Superstar,” helmer Chuck Workman casts the widest possible net across great expanses of pop-culture matter, then edits them into a short-attention-span-friendly montage that’s as entertaining as it is glib. Subject and marquee-boostering guests including Johnny Depp will ensure some theatrical exposure, followed by broadcast sales.

Primary focus is on charting the lives and achievements of Beat lit’s Big Three: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, with an honorary fourth chair reserved for their short-lived lifestyle inspiration, Neal Cassady. But frantically paced pic also tosses in glimpses of myriad other artistic figures, filmic models (Dean, Brando), Lenny Bruce, road-trip mythology, ’40s noir fatalism, ’60s countercultural trends, Buddhism, anti-nuke protests and whatever else can be kick-drop-referenced to create an unwieldy, unending Beat universe.

Footage seen here ranges from the familiar (an uncomfortable Kerouac on Steve Allen’s TV show) to the obscure (everyone from Bob Hope to Bob Denver parodying beat hepsters) to the barely relevant (if the 1970 “Five Easy Pieces’” toast sequence reflects Beat rebelliousness, then what doesn’t?). Interspersed throughout are rather stagy set pieces in which Depp, John Turturro and Dennis Hopper intone passages by Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, respectively.

As before, Workman doesn’t seem to discern between the culturally significant and the frivolous; nor does he worry much about matching elements chronologically (thus seg on Burroughs’ tome “Naked Lunch” is set to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”). Result is a pacey kaleidoscope that’s good fun, and sometimes fleetingly insightful or poignant. But amid the crowded annals of screen Beat-era chronicling (e.g., “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg,” “Kerouac,” et al.), feature is strictly a freshman 101 course.

Tech aspects are first-rate down the line.

The Source

Production

A Calliope Films Inc. production. Produced by Chuck Workman. Executive producer, Hiro Yamagata. Directed, written by Chuck Workman.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W docu segs), Tom Hurwitz, Don Lenzer; camera (color performance segs), Andrew Dintenfass, Jose Luis Mignone, Nancy Schreiber; editor, Workman; music, Philip Glass, David Amram. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 23, 1999. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, John Turturro.
With: Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, John Turturro.The somewhat simplistic notion that all things hip in our century's latter half derive from the Beat Movement gets an enthusiastic push from "The Source." As with his prior docus "The First 100 Years" and "Superstar," helmer Chuck Workman casts the widest possible net across great expanses of pop-culture matter, then edits them into a short-attention-span-friendly montage that's as entertaining as it is glib. Subject and marquee-boostering guests including Johnny Depp will ensure some theatrical exposure, followed by broadcast sales.Primary focus is on charting the lives and achievements of Beat lit's Big Three: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, with an honorary fourth chair reserved for their short-lived lifestyle inspiration, Neal Cassady. But frantically paced pic also tosses in glimpses of myriad other artistic figures, filmic models (Dean, Brando), Lenny Bruce, road-trip mythology, '40s noir fatalism, '60s countercultural trends, Buddhism, anti-nuke protests and whatever else can be kick-drop-referenced to create an unwieldy, unending Beat universe.Footage seen here ranges from the familiar (an uncomfortable Kerouac on Steve Allen's TV show) to the obscure (everyone from Bob Hope to Bob Denver parodying beat hepsters) to the barely relevant (if the 1970 "Five Easy Pieces'" toast sequence reflects Beat rebelliousness, then what doesn't?).
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