Film Capsule: The Beat Hotel

You ever get the feeling that just about everything Allen Ginsberg ever did – with the obvious exception of writing absolutely brilliant works of poetry – seemed a little bit contrived? I mean, here the guy is, dancing around in the streets of Versailles. There he is again, howling at the moon in the middle of the afternoon. Not to mention the way he always seemed to be lurking in the shadows whenever Dylan was busy making history.

Well, if you’ve ever felt that way about Allen Ginsberg, than The Beat Hotel probably isn’t for you. 

Why is that? Well, because – much like Ginsberg – Beat Hotel labors on for close to 90 minutes without any real axis or hook. While there’s no doubt the now-defunct Beat was to Paris what the Chelsea was to New York, Alan Govenar’s documentary does little to capture both the essence and the impact of what went on there throughout the late 1950s and early 60s.

I mean, we’re talking about the birth of a revolution here, driven by the life and times of the writers, poets and musicians who made it so (e.g., Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Burroughs, etc.). There’s a veritable powder keg of material inside those walls, just waiting to be mined. And yet, Govenar’s film feels tired and rote, hunkered down by dead-end stories from the few old timers who still remember those days.

Beat Hotel seems more like an exercise in patience, compounded by the sense there won’t be any grand payoff in the end. In fact, it’s a little bit like watching Allen Ginsberg pinwheel in the square, daring anyone and everyone to question what the fuck it is he thinks he’s doing, when the answer is so obvious it screams.

(The Beat Hotel opens at New York’s Cinema Village on March 30th, with a limited rollout to follow.)