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Beat Hotel, The

A film by Alan Govenar

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1957, Paris. A cheap no-name hotel becomes a haven for a new breed of artists struggling to free themselves from the conformity and censorship of America. Called the Beat Hotel, it soon became an epicenter of the Beat Generation. This revelatory new documentary delves deep into this amazing place and time.

Fleeing the obscenity trials surrounding the publication of Howl, Allen Ginsberg, along with Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, happened upon the hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris and were soon joined by William S. Burroughs, Ian Sommerville and Brion Gysin. Run by Madame Rachou, the Beat Hotel was a hotbed of creativity and permissiveness, where Burroughs finished Naked Lunch; Ginsberg and Corso wrote some of their greatest poetry; Sommerville and Gysin invented the Dreamachine; and Harold Norse wrote a novella, aptly called The Beat Hotel.

British photographer Harold Chapman’s iconic photos and Scottish artist Elliot Rudie’s drawings, interwoven with firsthand accounts, capture the Beats just as they were beginning to establish themselves, and bring THE BEAT HOTEL to life.

Watch the Trailer

What the Critics are Saying

"Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs' extreme lifestyles and creativity are brilliantly chronicled... This wonderful documentary allows us to dwell within the Beat Hotel for just a little while. The visit is a real treat." -

"A key part of Beat history...twinklingly delivered." - The New York Times

"Makes you want to pack up your laptop and write away in some cheap garret. Vivid...a real sense of the joyous energy of the time emerges, bristling with creativity." - Film Journal

"The hotel's fading legacy is what makes this documentary so worthwhile. Anyone with an interest in the Beats will enjoy hearing the stories and seeing the hotel as it once was. Chapman's photographs, Rudie's anecdotes, and Govenar's film really are the next best thing to being there." - Gay City News

"Exquisite...might just be the best documentary on the beat generation."
- The Unrepentant Marxist

"A must-see for every Beat completist and anyone interested in the history of queer creativity in the 20th century." - Out

Recommended Reading

The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs & Corso in Paris, 1957-1963 by Barry Miles

Naked Angels: The Lives and Literature of the Beat Generation by John Tytell

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text by William S. Burroughs

The Happy Birthday of Death by Gregory Corso

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine by Laura Hoptman


See details about this film's theatrical run.

Features and Specifications

Special Features:
  • Short Film: Harold Chapman on His Photography
  • Short Film: The Dreamachine
  • Elliot Rudie Drawings
  • Deleted Scene: William S. Burroughs & Ian Sommerville

Format: DVD
Release Year : 2011
Running Time: 82 minutes
Color: Color
Language: English

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