“Ferlinghetti” pays fond tribute to the American poet many consider the last half-century’s most popular and influential. Docu draws on a satisfying array of interviewed luminaries, archival materials and footage of the still-spry subject, but pedestrian assembly by director Christopher Felver and editor Brett Marty make the whole less than the sum of its episodic parts. The feature began a hometown theatrical run at San Francisco’s Roxie Cinema on May 1 Fer, but may find further exposure limited to fests, pubcasters and educational outlets.
Now 90, Lawrence Ferlinghetti survived an unsettled childhood to serve in the Navy during WWII. Seeing Nagasaki just after the A-bomb made him “an instant pacifist,” shaping one aspect of his later political activism. He returned from subsequent Parisian studies to found fabled S.F. bookstore (and later publishing company) City Lights — just in time to champion trailblazing voices like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs et al., while producing his own more tradition-rooted works. Called “a more complex individual than we’re used to in American writing,” he’s a genial subject here. Yet the pic’s uninspired craftsmanship appreciates without quite capturing his anarchistic humanist spirit.