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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg'

Dennis King Published: May 13, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg”

Poet Allen Ginsberg howled onto the international literary scene nearly 50 years ago with the publication of “Howl,” his seminal poem of the Beat era. And so Jerry Aronson’s definitive 1993 documentary, “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” is being re-released in a two-disc DVD set (due out Tuesday).

Aronson’s film has been released and broadcast several times over the years in varying formats, but the latest includes not only the central, 84-minute documentary but also a number of bonus extras such as a “making of …” featurette, several extended and deleted scenes featuring Bob Dylan, William Burroughs, Neal Cassidy and others, a photo gallery and theatrical trailer and a memorial to Ginsberg (who died in 1997).

The widely celebrated documentary – which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was later broadcast on PBS’s “American Masters” series – offers up a comprehensive survey of the poet’s life and work, touching on his obsession with death, the effects of his mother’s nervous breakdown and his father’s affinity for poetry. Ranging from his middle-class upbringing in New Jersey though his explosion onto scenes of the Beat and Flower Power movements, the film finally shows Ginsberg’s path to his later years as a devout Buddhist and peace activist.

In the process, it looks at his association with many key figures of his times, such as Burroughs, Dylan, fellow poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, LSD guru Timothy Leary, musicians Beck and Bono, actor Johnny Depp and many others and demonstrates his wide reach as not only an iconic artist but as a vastly influential political force who helped shape his times.

“The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” is not rated and runs 84 minutes, with six hours of special features on two discs. It’s being released by DOCURAMA.

- Dennis King


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