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‘The Burning Ghat’: Short film starring original Beat Herbert Huncke

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The Burning Ghat is a strange, yet revealing short film that reveals something of the relationship between original Beat, Herbert Huncke, and his long-time companion and room-mate, Louis Cartwright.

Huncke was a petty crook and junkie, who hustled around Times Square in the 1940s, where he met William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was Huncke who originally introduced these 3 young writers to the “Beat Life,” and became a major inspiration on their writing.

Not long after meeting him, Ginsberg wrote in his journal:

Who is Herbert Huncke? When I first knew him I saw him in what I considered the ‘glamorous’ light of a petty criminal and Times Square hustler who was experienced in the ways, thoughts, and activities of an underground culture which is enormously extensive. The attempt to dismiss him because of his social irresponsibility is something that I was never able to conceive as truthful or productive. I saw him as a self-damned soul—but a soul nonetheless, aware of itself and others in a strangely perceptive and essentially human way. He has great charm. I see that he suffers, more than myself, more than anyone I know of perhaps; suffers like a saint of old in the making; and also has cosmic or supersensory perceptions of an extraordinary depth and openness.

Louis Cartwright was a photographer (he took the portrait of Huncke above), drug addict and alleged pimp. According to Huncke, he was also someone not to be trusted. In 1994, Cartwright was stabbed to death, and his murder still remains unsolved.

The Burning Ghat was directed by James Rasin (Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar) and Jerome Poynton, and was filmed in Huncke’s apartment on Henry Street, New York.

Allen Ginsberg wrote of the film, “O Rare Herbert Huncke, live on film! The Burning Ghat features late-in-lifetime old partners Huncke & Louis playing characters beyond themselves with restrained solid self-awareness, their brief masquerade of soul climaxing in an inspired moment’s paradox bittersweet as an O’Henry’s tale’s last twist”.

Harry Smith said of the film, “It should have been longer”.

The Burning Ghat was featured at the 53rd Venice Biennial, and included in the Whitney Museum’s “Beat Culture and the New America” show of 1996. It won the Gold Plaque Award for Best Short Film at the 1990 Chicago International Film Festival.

Made the same year Huncke published his autobiography Guilty of Everything, this was to be his only on-screen, acting performance.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Original Beats’: A film on Herbert Hunke and Gregory Corso


 
Out-takes from ‘Original Beats’ featuring Herbert Huncke, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Whatever Happened to Kerouac?’: Essential documentary from 1985

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Strange to think, had he lived, Jack Kerouac would have been 90 this week. It begs the question, what would he have been like? Rabid raving Republican? Drunk demented Democrat? A pairing of the both? A religious nut? Would he have continued writing? Become an éminence grise? Would he still have mattered? Would we have cared?

Ninety. And to think he’s been dead for almost half that time, during which he has gone in-and-out of fashion. And yet, his appeal has somehow always stayed, though arguably that appeal has sometimes been more for what he represented than for his books or writing.

Even so, Kerouac at his best captured a hope, a joyous sense of what life could be - the potential of a moment, of the living of a life, rather than the having of a life-style.

I saw Whatever Happened to Kerouac? on the day it was released, in olde fleapit cinema, southside of Edinburgh. There were around a dozen people in the audience, gathered together in the flickering dark like a secret religious group come to give devotion, as we reverentially watched what is still the best documentary made on the “King of the Beats”. But this film is no hagiography, it captures what was both good and bad about Kerouac, and most of what you need to know, answering some of the questions other bio-pics and documentaries have avoided. The essence of the film is best summed up by William Burroughs when asked, “Whatever happened to Kerouac?” responds, Jack incited:

‘’....a worldwide unprecedented cultural revolution….”

The list of contributors is a who’s who of the Beat Generation: William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady, Ann Charters, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Joyce Johnson, Michael McClure, Edie Kerouac Parker, and Gary Snyder. Directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdam, this is a must for fans of Kerouac and the Beats.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Original Beats: A film on Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso

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Original Beats is a short documentary film by Francois Bernadi on Gregory Corso and Herbert Huncke.

Huncke was the original Beat. He coined the term, lived the life and was on the road long before Kerouac. Here he talks about his life as petty criminal, drug user and Beat writer. 

Corso believed the poet and his life are inseparable. It was a belief he held true, otherwise the poet couldn’t write like a lion, write truthfully.

This is a fascinating and informative portrait on the eldest and the youngest of the original Beats, filmed shortly before Huncke’s death in 1996.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment