Tuesday 17 December 2013


Quite impressive film of a pivotal segment of Allen Ginsberg's early life, from 40-year old director John Krokidias, whose first full-length feature this is.

There can't be many people who don't know the names of, not only Ginsberg, but also Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, both the latter playing quite significant roles in this period of his life. But it's Lucien Carr, whom I didn't know much about (though I vaguely recognised the name) who was such a major influence on Ginsberg, and  I knew still less of the crime which exclusively takes up the final part of this film. It's Carr, along with Ginsberg, who has the lion's share of the film almost from the outset when the superficially callow Ginsberg arrives at Columbia University and Carr immediately becomes his mentor.  The latter's lack of respect for 'rules', both of authority and within the confines of poetry, is the catalyst which sparks Ginsberg to conduct himself in like free-thinking manner. Their mutual sympathies in this direction lead, naturally enough, to an intellectual relationship, rather than one that is physically expressed. But the major complication is Carr's previous, older relationship, who is unable to let him go. The downward spiral of the latter's desperation includes a most distressing (for me) incident involving a cat, which is going to echo in my mind for a long time, even though it's seen as being rescued before any harm befell it.

Daniel Radcliffe does a fairly good job as Ginsberg, though I personally would have preferred some actor who was far less known in this major role as it was not helped one bit by Radcliffe wearing spectacles throughout the film, inevitably resonating with another role. It needed me to take a great leap of faith to see him as someone who took so easily to various drug and drink indulgences. Maybe other viewers don't have that difficulty.

I thought Dane DaHaan (upper left) as Carr was brilliant, as was Michael C. Hall as his priggish but attractive (bear-like) older former lover - though I'm going to find it hard to dismiss the latter's action with the cat, film or not!
I was rather less convinced by Jack Huston as Kerouac, whose 'free-spiritedness' seemed a bit forced, and Ben Foster as a very dour, very knowing, young William Burroughs who, as portrayed here, didn't seem to accord with the much older Burroughs whom I know through his later books. (Must confess I've read very little of the works of Ginsberg and Kerouac).

I don't know how I managed not to have recognised Jennifer Jason Leigh as Ginsberg's mentally damaged mother until the final credits showed, but I didn't.

I really liked the style of the film, particularly for the first hour in its capturing the disparate nature of the characters' 'lawlesnesss of minds' - featuring jazz in thickly smoky atmospheres, taking in druggy effects. Once the crime is revealed the direction of the film becomes strongly focussed, and I thought it was slightly less successful in conveying what was going on inside the players' minds.

I don't know if many people who know nothing of the actual persons depicted in this film will have the motivation to see it. It's certainly not what might be regarded as 'mainstream'. But, all in all, any reservations that I do have cannot detract from my opinion that this is a good film..............7.


  1. ohhh, I hope this is in the cinema next week in Devon. I will go with my friend sans OH's. We have our holiday meet up. looking forward to that now.

    1. I think it's much more likely to be showing in art-house cinemas, Sol. If you happen to be going anywhere near Exeter, where I know there is one, you just may be able to catch it there.
      I hope you do manage to see it as I'd be surprised if your expectations aren't largely fulfilled.

  2. Ray,
    I'm glad you told me about the cat in this film. I don't know what it is with the current fad in movies to put small animals in danger or death (like throwing a yappy lap dog over a cliff for laughs) but I don't find it one bit entertaining. Apparently some self-absorbed screenwriters devoid of original ideas think that animal cruelty is okay to move a plot line. I don't think so and won't watch any movies that do it. Thanks for the warning.


    1. Ron. it's the notion (also propagated by most religions) that animals are disposable and any pain or distress they undergo, even if it's just to 'entertain' humans, is of no worth. For most people the incident in this film will just be brushed aside and forgotten. Not so for the likes of us. I have to confess that for me it did colour all that followed in the film - and my final verdict as well, which might well have been higher were it not for these upsetting few seconds.

  3. I think I liked this movie more than you did but 7/10 is certainly a respectable showing.

    Cat incident notwithstanding, I loved Michael C Hall in this movie. He is known (at least here) from roles in two very interesting television series. I hope this indicates we'll see him more often on the big screen.

    1. It sounds then, H.K., that you felt a degree of enthusiasm for this film, something which I did not experience. But it was a good 'filler-in' of details of stuff one knows only a little about, though I suspect that you'd have been more knowledgeable on the characters than I was.
      I didn't know of Hall at all though maybe avid TV watchers here would have recognised him. I'll certainly perk up next time he graces our cinema screens.