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The Source

By Heather Joslyn | Posted

"Right over those knolls, something wonderful is going to be. But the further you went, you found there were just more knolls," novelist Ken Kesey says in The Source, pointing just beyond a Southwestern horizon and summing up the promise and reality of the Beat Generation's endless odyssey. Oscar-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman takes on the thankless task of summing up the history and legacy of the Beats and manages nicely by focusing squarely on the movement's holy trinity: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. Workman weaves startling archival footage—Kerouac on The Steve Allen Show, home movies of Beat muse Neal Cassady—with contemporary interviews and charged dramatic readings of varying intensity. (Johnny Depp makes a sleepy Kerouac stand-in, but John Turturro delivers a feverish rendition of Ginsberg's "Howl," and Dennis Hopper is so deliciously witty performing Burroughs that you start thinking biopic.) The director's kinetic editing style (especially as he conveys the surrealism of Burroughs' work) helps make his case that the Beats' spirit still pulses through American culture.

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