1957. The Latin Quarter, Paris. A cheap no-name hotel became a haven for a new breed of artists fleeing the conformity and censorship of America. The hotel soon turned into an epicenter of Beat writing that produced some of the most important works of the Beat generation. It came to be known as the Beat Hotel. Alan Govenar’s feature documentary The Beat Hotel explores this amazing place and time.
Fleeing the obscenity trials surrounding the publication of his seminal poem Howl, Allen Ginsberg, along with Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, happened upon the hotel on rue Git le Coeur and were soon joined by William Burroughs, Ian Somerville, and Brion Gysin. Run by the indefatigable Madame Rachou, the Beat Hotel was a hotbed of creativity and permissiveness, where Burroughs and Gysin developed the cut-up writing method; Burroughs finished his controversial book Naked Lunch; Ginsberg began his poem Kaddish; Somerville and Gysin invented the Dream Machine; Corso wrote some of his greatest poems; and Harold Norse, in his own cut-up experiments, wrote a novella, aptly called The Beat Hotel.
British photographer Harold Chapman’s iconic photos and Scottish artist Elliot Rudie’s animated drawings, interwoven with the firsthand accounts of French artists Jean-Jacques Lebel, British book dealer Cyclops Lester, and 95 year old George Whitman, capture the Beats just as they were beginning to establish themselves on the international scene and bring The Beat Hotel to life on the screen.