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The Source


The Source

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Best known for his breathlessly edited Oscar montages, director Chuck Workman has made a career of dicing American culture into pieces and tossing it into a high-speed blender, producing a smooth, homogenous, easily digestible mush. Though his collage technique was ideal for capturing the fractured, manic pop-art vision of Andy Warhol in his exhilarating Superstar: The Life And Times Of Andy Warhol, it's not nearly as effective when a subject demands more serious contemplation. The Source, Workman's cursory overview of the Beats, is effective in showing how the movement rippled across all aspects of American life, but the actual ideas that made it enduring and meaningful are given short shrift. If the film can be said to have a focus, it's on Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, the original Beats who came together in 1944 New York and would eventually author its key works: On The Road, "Howl," and Naked Lunch, respectively. The three labored in relative obscurity throughout the conformist Eisenhower Era, but their realm of influence increased significantly in the '60s, providing an intellectual core to counterculture radicalism. In his rush to cover every conceivable writer, political event, coffeehouse, and game show touched by the Beats, Workman squanders the precious opportunity for more substantive interviews with Ginsberg and Burroughs, both of whom died in 1997. Like his exhausting First 100 Years: A Celebration Of American Movies, The Source gives the most thorough history any film could in 90 minutes, which makes it only useful for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. Workman's attention is rapt whenever Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, and John Turturro are brought in for stylized readings, but he rarely offers that much time for thought. Intended as a lively homage to the movement, The Source skims through the Beats at a rate that inadvertently suggests their ideas won't hold up under greater scrutiny.