Testimony from the 1968 Chicago Conspiracy Trial
The prosecution is asking Ginsberg to explain/defend his sexually explicit “Love Poem on Theme by Whitman,” and Ginsberg here tells of what he channeled from Walt Whitman...
"Unless there is an infusion of feeling, of tenderness, of fearlessness, of spirituality, of natural sexuality, of natural delight in each other’s bodies, into the hardened, materialistic, cynical, life-denying, clearly competitive, afraid, scared, armored bodies, there will be no chance for spiritual democracy to take place in America."
How amazing is that? In many ways this film is a continuation of conversations this straight son had with his recently out gay dad about relationships. He wanted me to finally stay with someone, and he and I would talk and argue and finally get past the niceties that kept things between us sweet yet flat for so long. I learned a whole lot more about love, vulnerability, commitment, sex, and the confusion that is relationships from my gay dad than I did when he was my straight dad.
My parents were married in 1955, even though they both knew my dad was gay, at a church in San Francisco, just blocks away from the apartment where Allen Ginsberg was simultaneously writing his poem “Howl”. How multilayered, strange, and hard to fix are the options available to different souls at the same historical moment?! So not only is Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and his apartment, and his soul part of the landscape of Beginners, his euphoric intertwining of the personal and the political has always been very inspiring to me. In the 1968 trial Ginsberg goes on to tell the judge...
GINSBERG: "Walt Whitman is one of my spiritual teachers and I am following him in this poem, taking off from a line of his own and projecting my own actual unconscious feelings, of which I don’t have any shame, sir; which I feel are basically charming, actually."
THE COURT: "I didn’t hear that last word."
PROSECUTOR: "I have no further questions."
For more Ginsberg: Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews, 1958-1996
By István Szabó
I adore this film, and his previous film Father – the two are sort of a dyptych – they share actors, characters, and themes. If I tell you it’s about the political history of Hungary during/after WW2 and how that affected the love of a couple who knew each other from childhood, you might want to take a nap instead, and that doesn’t get to how groundbreaking this is! This film always reminded me to try to be braver in my storytelling, as it’s a river of concrete moments, mostly memories, fragments unexplained and repeated, odd pieces of one’s life. It all builds to a very emotional, sharable, sometimes funny story. Maybe what I love most is its commitment to the mystery and hugeness of the small and concrete. And it showed me how a story built of real personal histories, interwoven with larger histories, can feel magical and strange - not ponderous. Oh, how could I leave this for last; it’s the best film about memory, you experience how fleeting, repetitive, odd, fragmentary and yet totally world-shaping our memories are.
I included this photo in my first e-mail to Mélanie Laurent. I thought it would be good if she knew who she was talking to from the get-go. She informed me that she was more of a cat person, and so, ever accommodating, I sent a more appropriate photo in the next e-mail.
So far so good.
Welcome to the world of people, places, and things related to our upcoming film Beginners. This blog is very much inspired by the decorum-busting enthusiasm, the deep belief in sharing, and the all-embracing inclusivity of Henry Rollins’ amazing radio show Harmony In My Head. If you haven’t heard it, you must check out this radical whole food of a show; always geared to turning people onto things he loves, with a surprising and subversive lack of any kind of cultural attitude or punk’s I-know-of-things-more-rare-than-thou judgment. He’s a real self-taught student of music, and truly eclectic, the kind of eclectic that wakes you up to how strange life is. Every time I listen to the show I feel flush with possibilities of the world. And indeed, his show is the kind of thing that kept me warm during the long dark nights when I was dispirited, unhinged, and had lost my way while trying to get this movie written and made. I struggled a fair amount with how to make a film that is so personal. The looseness, aliveness, and wildness of Mr. Rollins’ energy gave me one model (of many I need) of how you could be personal, concrete, specific and also reach out to people – and have the nerve to invite a bunch of strangers along and to keep in mind how much we share. Even our innermost mysterious parts, like sex and dying and falling in love, believing in things and not believing in things, things that feel so confusing to ourselves how could we possibly share them? Mr. Rollins’ show creates the kind of atmosphere where I say “well... I want to be the kind of person who at least tries.”
So, in this blog you’ll find entries on the films, and books, and music, and graphics, and photography, and people, and moments, and events, some years, some jokes, some dogs and some rivers that fed my writing of Beginners. We’re also gonna go to some of the locations where we shot, we’ll talk to our dear cast and crew, I’m gonna do some drawings you can download; basically, I’m gonna share the things that keep me happy and excited, the heroes (the big kind and the small kind) that made me say “Lord, please let me make something that is half as good as that!”
Photo of me drawing on set by my much-more-than-an-assistant Sarah Soquel Morhaim