The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg

Director: Jerry Aronson

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Poet Allen Ginsberg's life on earth has spanned three-quarters of a century and as this film proves, it has not been time wasted, Director Aronson fashions his biography in strict chronological order (with an occasional reading by the now-senior Ginsberg), so each decade becomes a chapter in Ginsberg's life,

For Ginsberg fans perhaps the most interesting segment of the film is its opening. Here we find a young, extremely handsome and very fit Allen first digesting the art of poetry from his father, who had some renown as a "lyricist," and then watching his mother slip into a nervous darkness that would completely take over her life. It is clearly indicated that Ginsberg fused these two incredibly important people and their temperaments into his own personality,

The forties and fifties section of the film is the best known to "Beat" history buffs, An incredibly heady and energetic time, this marked the period when Ginsberg began to hang out with Kerouac, Burroughs and Cassidy, and we witness the development of his unique persona. During this time he officially came out, fell in love, checked into a psychiatric hospital, listened to Ray Charles, and fully immersed himself into "living With Junkies, geniuses and poets." As Timothy Leary summarizes, "Allen and Peter (Alien's longtime lover) were true bohemians."

The film concludes with a portrait of "Professor" Ginsberg, looking truly like the elder statesman and sage that he has become. His recent poetry is beautiful and sad as he meditates on his life's incredible trajectory: "What a mess I am, Allen Ginsberg… who's been inhabiting this body/corpse for sixty-five years?"

Friday Jan 22 4:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Tuesday Jan 21 1:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Wednesday Jan 21 10:30 am
Holiday Village Cinema II

Friday Jan 29 4:30 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III


— Andrea Alsberg

Screening Details

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