I MUST ADMIT that many years ago, when I was an impressionable teenager, I considered myself an existentialist, and carried Camus' The Stranger in my jacket pocket as if it were a bar of gold. I was a big fan of beat literature. I thought Kerouac's On the Road was brilliant, Burrough's novel Junkie was way beyond cool, and Ginsberg's Howl had one of the greatest opening lines in all of literature. These days, the works of Kerouac and other beats rarely enter my world or field of interest -- a consequence which might be related to a Harold Bloom-like complex: In order to establish myself as a writer, I've deliberately denounced (and in some cases erased) all of my earlier influences.

Whatever my problem is, the end result of those earlier years is that I know a lot about the beats, and this chunk of dead knowledge made watching Chuck Workman's new documentary, The Source, a bit dull. Not only did he use a lot of footage I had seen in other beat documentaries, he failed to present a new vision or fresh analysis of the beat generation.

For example, instead of taking a lengthy look at the serious (and side) roles women played in the movement (something I have never seen in documentary form), Workman gives us only a few mumbled words from Shirley Clark -- the director of the classic beat film The Connection -- who says something about how all beat girls looked alike.

In another could-be promising moment, beat poet Ted Jones appears onscreen. I thought we might be given some insight into black literary production of the period; instead Jones dishes the same old stuff about how the beats worshipped black jazz musicians.

With the exception of the dramatic readings of seminal beat texts by Johnny Depp (who does an excellent Kerouac), Dennis Hopper (who does an okay Burroughs), and John Turturro (who does a bad Ginsberg), this film offers nothing new, especially to us old and still-in-denial beats.

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