Sunday, April 8, 2012
"The Beat Hotel," directed by arts documentarian Alan Govenar, captures a time from 1957 to 1963 when Beat writers lived with other artists in a seedy hotel in Paris managed by a Madame Rachou. From this hotbed of creativity and bohemianism emerged some of the writers' greatest works, including Allen Ginsberg's "Kaddish," William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch" and Gregory Corso's "Bomb." Ginsberg moved there with his partner, Peter Orlovsky, while his poem "Howl" was the subject of an obscenity trial (see my review of the film "Howl.") The main narrator is Harold Chapman, an English photographer who captured the scene with his camera (he also reminisced about life at the hotel in the Guardian). The documentary provides an insightful and entertaining look at a group of writers and the freedom and creativity they found abroad.