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Beat poet Ginsberg lives on in ‘docu-diary’


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Monday, November 17, 1997

Beat poet Ginsberg lives on in ‘docu-diary’

FILM:

Movie shows late artist’s connections with common everyday
peopleBy Stacy Sare

Daily Bruin Contributor

When the late Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg walks down the
streets of New York City, he doesn’t spend his time with the rich
and famous on Fifth Avenue or engage in fine dining at Central
Park’s notorious Tavern on Green. His life consists of everyday
people.

As a cinematographer, Marina Goldovskaya zooms in closely behind
the footsteps of Ginsberg and friend/ translator István Eorsi.
She follows them into a local bookstore, a squat house and the old
neighborhood, in the dregs of the Lower East Side.

The documentary was produced, directed and edited by UCLA School
of Theater, Film and Television professor Gyula Gazdag. Goldovskaya
is also a professor in the department of film and television.

The documentary, "A Poet On The Lower East Side: A Docu-diary on
Allen Ginsberg" is based on Hungarian translator Eorsi’s visit to
Ginsberg in May 1995. Eorsi arrived to translate and publish a
volume of Ginsberg’s selected poems for Ginsberg’s 70th
birthday.

Eorsi, a Hungarian poet and playwright, has been translating
Ginsberg’s poetry since the early 1960s. Gazdag says he discovered
how Ginsberg worked as a poet during the filming.

"While being there with Ginsberg and Eorsi day after day we
could witness the process of writing and translating poetry,"
Gazdag says.

Gazdag says the most significant aspect of the process was
learning about Ginsberg as a human being. "Through the making of
the film we developed a great way of communication without words,
which helped a lot in the making of the film," Gazdag says. "In
working together we became really close."

He remarks that Ginsberg enjoyed the shoot.

"He told me that he enjoyed being free in front of the camera
and he appreciated our flexibility when following him around. He
was very open and generous during the whole shoot."

The documentary depicts Ginsberg as a friend of the common
people. He spends most of the time in the Lower East Side’s
"Alphabet City," one of New York’s lower-to-middle-class
neighborhoods.

In the film, Ginsberg speaks with struggling artists who put
thousands of dollars into fixing up the squat house from which they
will soon be evicted. When the federal court grants the eviction
and police surround the area, Ginsberg is there at the scene.

In another shot, Ginsberg runs into a 15-year-old high school
student on the street who used to ride the train in from Chapaquaw,
New York to attend Ginsberg’s graduate seminar. Speaking to Eorsi,
Ginsberg compliments his student Jon.

"He was the best student in the class because he had read
everything the others didn’t know," Ginsberg says.

In the next scene, Godolvskya zooms in on Ginsberg and Eorsi
standing in front of the former home of Charlie Parker, inventor of
bebop jazz.

Soon Ginsberg leaves New York City to visit his stepmother Edith
in Paterson, N.J. When he asks Edith about her health she remarks,
"I’m still here." Then Ginsberg spends the rest of the afternoon at
a waterfall conversing in the park with friends.

Through his experiences working with the poet, Gazdag says the
most significant aspect of the process was learning of the
similarities between Ginsberg and himself.

"Even though I’m Hungarian and Ginsberg’s from New York, we
possess a common language, even though I create films and Ginsberg,
poetry," Gazdag says. "In working together, we became very
close."

Gazdag says Ginsberg told him that he enjoyed working with
Gazdag’s crew.

"He told me that other filmmakers would tell (him) how to sit
and they’d basically interview him," Gazdag recalls. "He told me
that I let him be himself. Because of this, he had more trust and
became more open."

Unfortunately Ginsberg did not have the opportunity to view the
film’s final cut. It took approximately two years to complete the
documentary.

On April 4, 1997, Ginsberg suffered a heart attack shortly after
being diagnosed with liver cancer. He died surrounded by friends
and family.

Ginsberg did not limit his encounters to the elite. The
down-to-earth Beat Generation poet who is part of the literary
canon taught in universities around the world will be long
remembered.

FILM: There will be a free screening of "A Poet on the Lower
East Side" at the James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall tonight at
7:30 p.m. It will also play on the Sundance Channel on Nov. 28 at
3:30 p.m. and Nov. 29 at 9 p.m.

UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television

Allen Ginsberg visiting the Lower East Side.

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