NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

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From 1957 to 1963, a squalid and nameless Parisian hotel became the home of some of the best minds of the Beat Generation.  These years were filled with unparalleled creative activity, yet they are often overlooked in favor of the New York and San Francisco scenes.  Now, director Alan Govenar brings us "The Beat Hotel," a documentary that chronicles this prolific period in the history of the Beats.  Based on Barry Miles' book of the same name, the documentary uses dramatic recreations of the photographs of Harold Chapman to depict life at 9 rue Git-le-Coeur–the infamous Beat Hotel.

Among the most well-known residents of the Beat Hotel was Allen Ginsberg who came to Paris during the "Howl" obscenity trial.  While Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the City Lights Bookshop and publisher of Ginsberg's poems, fought against the censorship of "Howl," Ginsberg found a safe haven in the morally permissive Latin Quarter.  It was here, under the protection of Madame Rachou, the proprietor of the hotel and admirer of eccentric artists, that he wrote "Kaddish." It was also here that Gregory Corso wrote "Bomb" and William Burroughs worked on his innovative novel Naked Lunch.

The Beat Hotel was a grimy run-down building with rats and hole-in-the-floor toilets, but it was cheap and Madame Rachou turned a blind eye to the illicit activities of her artistic guests.  Thus did Paris become an extension of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.  Govenar’s film vividly portrays these freewheeling years of sex, drugs, and poetry and restores to cultural history this neglected yet highly original phase in Beat Generation art 

 

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