DVD Review: The Life And Times Of Allen Ginsberg



According to the back cover, director Jerry Aronson has been accumulating footage for this be all end all documentary, The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. And I must say, all that hard work shows.

This is a fantastic documentary that looks at Ginsberg’s whole life, from his childhood with his mentally troubled mother up through all the important moments that most people are aware of by now. But whether you’re a Ginsberg aficionado, someone who’s only read “Howl” and not much more, or only knows his as the character David Cross played in I’m Not There, this will be an entertaining and informative film to watch.

There are tons of wonderful interviews with Ginsberg himself talking about all aspects of his life as well as reading several of his poems. There are also interviews with family members, friends and celebrities sharing there thoughts and memories of this amazing man.

There is also tons of archival footage showing all the amazing things he’s done in his life. The footage of the Chicago riots in the 60’s is particularly harrowing.

Even if you’re not big into poetry there is no denying that Allen Ginsberg is an important part of our history and our culture and this documentary pays loving tribute to his life and work.

The film is presented in a both widescreen and full screen formats depending on the era and the footage. The sound is in 5.1 Dolby Digital Stereo sound. This is a good looking documentary. At times the interviews sounded a little muddy but they may have just been the quality of the recording at the time.

There is hour and hours of extras here. There is over 90 minutes of extras alone on the disc one, which include: Ginsberg talking with William Burroughs (14 min.), Neal Cassady (25 min.), Bob Dylan (2 min.) and Stan Brakhage (2 min.). Ginsberg reads selected poems including “Howl” (25 min.), Ginsberg sings a song “Ballad of the Skeletons” (7 min.). A making of (10 min.). Ginsberg’s Photo Exhibition (7 min.). Excerpts from the film Scenes from Allen’s Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (7 min.) and photo galleries.

Disc two offers up: tons of Interviews with Joan Baez (3 min.), Beck (5 min.), Bono (10 min.) Stan Brakhage (5 min.), William Burroughs (8 min.), Johnny Depp (11 min.), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (5 min.), Philip Glass (9 min.), Peter Hale (12 min.), John Hammond, Sr. (2 min.), Abbie Hoffman (6 min.), Jack Johnson (3 min.), Ken Kesey (3 min.), Timothy Leary (9 min.), Judith Malina & Julian Beck (4 min.), Paul McCartney (6 min.), Jonas Mekas (11 min.), Thurston Moore (9 min.), Yoko Ono (7 min.), Le Ranaldo (10 min.), Gehlek Rimpoche (5 min.), Bob Rosenthal (9 min.), Ed Sanders (13 min.), Patti Smith (13 min.), Steven Taylor (15 min.), Hunter S. Thompson (2 min.), Bob Thurman (7 min.), Anne Waldman (6 min.) and Andy Warhol (2 min.). There is also a Memorial (26 min.).

I’m not a huge poetry fan, but this is a great documentary about a great and important man in our culture.

Docurama Films presents The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. Directed by Jerry Aronson. Starring: Allen Ginsberg. Running time: 84 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released: June 11, 2013.