Corso – The Last Beat

The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger's enthralling docu.

With:
With: Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Ethan Hawke, Gustave Reininger.

The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the poet’s haunted past. Once it’s gotten the clumsy period-setting out of the way, the pic comes into its own, tugging at the emotions in genuinely cathartic ways. “Corso” will easily see success on bicoastal art screens and beyond.

In a sign of how successfully Reininger gives life not just to the man but to his poetry, the public jury at Taormina awarded the docu their best film prize. Opening scenes introduce Corso exhorting the Muses at the ancient temple in Delphi, looking very different from the handsome figure seen in early photos. With his thick New York accent and unkempt appearance, he looks and sounds more like a common schnorrer than the man Allen Ginsberg called “a poet’s poet.”

Reininger shifts back in time in an attempt to capture the era leading up to the Beats’ takeover of popular culture, though piling on photos does little to illuminate the subject. Fortunately this hyperbole-prone section segues into scenes of Corso and Ginsberg pointing out old haunts in New York’s Greenwich Village. With Ginsberg’s death in 1997 — seen in deliberately out-of-focus images — Corso became the last of the Beats.

Docu’s long gestation is evident both in this original footage and in Reininger’s subsequent journey with Corso to Europe, where the poet was rejuvenated by sites in France, Italy and Greece he first visited in the 1950s.

Born in New York in 1930, he led a hardscrabble childhood: Convinced by an abusive father that his mother abandoned him, Corso grew up on the streets, thrown into “the Tombs” at age 13 for nabbing a toaster. At 17, he was sentenced to three years in the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility for stealing a suit. The docu enters a new realm with scenes of Corso returning to Clinton and speaking with the inmates about his discovery of classical texts in prison. There’s nothing of the schoolmaster in his manner; he speaks inspirationally, without condescension and with enormous understanding and gratitude.

From here, Reininger’s story gets better and better, as he fills in Corso’s childhood and investigates the real tale of his mother’s supposed abandonment. Even auds aware of the story are bound to be moved by how it develops, and the film captures it with respect and warmth.

Much is left out — there’s no sense of how Corso supported himself, and the film does viewers a disservice by avoiding any mention of his drug use and lifelong methadone addiction.

Ethan Hawke delivers onscreen narration in a relaxed style akin to that of a teacher educating friends. The thesp is an appropriate choice: His propensity for grunge could never have existed without the Beats and, as seen toward the end, he was a visitor at Corso’s deathbed. Sound quality is occasionally fuzzy around the edges, but otherwise, the docu plays fine on the bigscreen.

Corso – The Last Beat

Production: An Arkwright Ventures production. Produced by Gustave Reininger, Damien Leveck. Executive producers, Reininger, Donna Stillo, Jane Albrecht, Fred Milstein, John Ptak. Co-producers, Haven Reininger, Amanda Gill. Directed, written by Gustave Reininger.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Harry Dawson, Richard Rutkowski, Jesse M. Feldman; editor, Damien Leveck; music, Steven J. Edwards; sound, Adam Hawk; associate producer, Peter Kirby. Reviewed at Taormina Film Festival (Beyond the Mediterranean), June 14, 2009. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Ethan Hawke, Gustave Reininger.

More Film

  • Les Arcs Film Festival

    Les Arcs European Film Festival's Industry Village Kicks Off with Strong Roster

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Disney-Fox Deal Sets Up Scramble for

    Disney-Fox Deal Unleashes Flood of Free-Agent Executives, Talent

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    The least known of the Beats comes off as the most appealing in Gustave Reininger’s enthralling docu “Corso — the Last Beat.” The helmer, best known for his collaborations with Michael Mann (most notably on “Crime Story”), befriended Gregory Corso in his later years, documenting that final period and helping to expel ghosts from the […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content