“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” (On the Road, Jack Kerouac)
On the 4th of February at h 19.15 E*Cinema will bring attention to Beat Cinema and present works by filmmakers such as Robert Frank, William Burroughs, Antony Balch, James Broughton and Jonas Mekas. The first film will be musically accompanied by the Chris Corstens Quartet. At h 21 Shadows by John Cassavetes will be screened in a special deal of Double Bill. Introduction by Jan Frederik Groot, teacher at the KABK and film maker.
For some people Beat connotes the entire youth culture (the early hippies) of the first post-war decades in the USA, for others it refers to a particular handful of artists, writers, poets and dreamers, and dropouts whose activities reflected a conscious determination to rebel against what they perceived as a highly-oppressive sociocultural atmosphere. The early Beats have been linked to the Existentialists of Western Europe who emerged approximately in the same period and, driven by alienation, anxiety, idealism and intellectual energy, rejected conventionality, materialism, repressiveness, regimentation and corruption to opt for the exploration (even through drugs) of their consciousness, sensibilities and sexuality, for a rebel spontaneity in life and a bohemian street survivalism. As the critic Gregory Stephenson mentions in The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation, their activity could be described as libertarian-egalitarian-populist-anarchist which proposed not a political rebellion but rather a revolt of the soul, a revolution of the spirit. The Beat generation became a lens through which nontraditional behaviours could be framed—and demonized—in the popular media. Please see here two examples of how alternative identities and lifestyles of the Beat culture were stereotypically portrayed within mainstream cinema:
The first Beat artists were strikingly productive, especially in literature, where they produced explicit portrayals of the human condition. They counter-attacked the ‘50s idea of rationalized consensus with literary acts reflecting a Romantic insistence on the moral, ethical, and spiritual potency of creative selfhood. Inspired by Walt Whitman, William Blake, the subversive movements of Dada and Surrealism and by the radical Lost Generation of the post- World War I (Hart Crane, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound), they became fascinated by the possibilities of the language, which could free thoughts as a stream of water and sound as jazz. Beat writers indeed were linked in significant ways to jazz music (Miles Davis, Charlie Parker), as well as to other arts like the abstract expressionism (Jackson Pollock), the proscenium/free theatre (Julian Beck, Judith Malina), and, most significantly, the experimental filmmaking (Bruce Conner, Milos Foreman, Stan Brakhage) and photography (Robert Frank, William Klein). As the film critic David Sterritt suggests in his book Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the ‘50s, and Film, the “visual thinking” was relevant to the lives and works of major Beat authors, most notably Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs.
Source: Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the ‘50s, and Film by David Sterritt. (see below)
At h 19.15 EYE will screen:
The bed, James Broughton, 1968, 19 min. Music by Chris Corstens Quartet.
Released in 1968, The Bed rocked the experimental film world with its liberal portrayal of our bodies, our senses, and all we experience through them. Shot on the rolling hills of California, sunshine lights up each actor as he plays through scenes that explore physicality in all its forms.
Hare Krishna, Jonas Mekas, 1966, 4 min.
A ‘documentary’ – one Sunday afternoon in New York – beautiful new generation – dancing in the streets of New York – singing ‘Hare Hare’ – filling the streets and the air with love – in the very beginning of the New Age – Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky (on soundtrack) singing ‘Hare Hare’. (film-makerscoop.com)
Towers Open Fire, Anthony Balch, William S. Burroughs, 1963, 10 min.
Scripted by Burroughs, Towers Open Fire displays the tenets, humor, and dry persona for which he had become famous. It is a straightforward attempt to find a cinematic equivalent for William Burroughs’ writing: a collage of all the key themes and situations in the books, accompanied by a Burroughs soundtrack narration.
Conversations in Vermont, Robert Frank, 1969, 27 min.
This is Frank´s first overtly autobiographical film. He follows his children to school in Vermont and interviews them about their feelings, their upbringing and what it was like to grow up in a bohemian world with artists as parents. In search for answers about his children’s lives, Frank is questioning his own world. (mfah.org/films/robert-frank-collection)
At h 21.00 (DOUBLE BILL) EYE will present Shadows (John Cassavetes, USA, 1959, 87’).
Shadows is a highlight of the Independent Cinema, made with the money John Cassavetes (1929-1989) earned as an actor in the popular television series called Johnny Staccato. Shadows is a semi-improvised story about the love between a white boy and a black girl. The film was famous for its emotionally realistic style, which emerged from the intensive collaboration between the Cassavetes’ permanent group of actors, among which Peter Falk and his wife Gena Rowlands.
Hand-out: Hand Out Beat
Mad to Be Saved: The Beats, the ‘50s, and Film by David Sterritt is an interesting book regarding the Beat generation and its arts. It offers an important revisionist reading by looking at Beat’s relationship to cultural issues (lifestyle as politics, consensus ideology), gender and sexual politics (“queer” bohemians, women Beats), and race (white Negro, black bohemian) in ways that complicate our knowledge of the postwar period. It also links the Beats to film and visual culture and shows how the Beats’ incorporation of film techniques—such as Kerouac’s “sketching,” Burroughs’s cutup, and Ginsberg’s spontaneous “bop prosody”—parallels other forms of avant-garde filmmaking. The book is fully available here:
Text compilation: Anna Dabrowska.