FERLINGHETTI: A REBIRTH OF WONDER (Christopher Felver, 2009)
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
Saturday, March 9, 9:00, and Sunday, March 10, 6:30
“Poetry should be dissident, and subversive, and an agent for change,” poet, publisher, painter, activist, and military veteran Lawrence Ferlinghetti says in Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, a refreshing and revealing documentary about the author of A Coney Island of the Mind and owner of the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. Director Christopher Felver, who has previously made documentaries on John Cage, Tony Cragg, Donald Judd, and Cecil Taylor, has compiled ten years of interviews with Ferlinghetti, including trips to Italy, where the poet’s father was born; France, where the aunt who raised him was from; and his childhood home in New York. Among those sharing their opinions of the charming and friendly Ferlinghetti, who turns ninety-four next month, are fellow poets Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, and Billy Collins as well as such other artistic figures as David Amram, Dave Eggers, Dennis Hopper, and Jean-Jacques Lebel, all of whom have only the most positive things to say about the film’s subject. Despite his radicalism and calls for social and political change around the world, Ferlinghetti is nearly always wearing a smile, clearly enjoying the long life he’s leading. He discusses his friendships with Kenneth Rexroth, Shakespeare & Co. founder George Whitman, and the Beats, primarily Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, focusing at one point on the censorship trial involving his publication of Ginsberg’s Howl, which turned into a critical battle over First Amendment rights. Counterculture guru Ferlinghetti is shown performing in a studio with Amram, accepting an award from the city of San Francisco, discussing his family, working on his abstract paintings, and wearing silly hats. He is completely at ease with who he is and where he came from, as well as where he’s going, still fighting the power as valiantly as ever, not just relaxing on his many laurels. Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder is also likely to make viewers think twice about their own lives, realizing there’s a great big world out there, and it is possible for each and every person to make a difference. Ferlinghetti is screening March 9 at 9:00 and March 10 at 6:30 at Anthology Film Archives in conjunction with the series “Beats on Film” and the Grey Art Gallery exhibition “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg.”