“No point writing when the spirit doth not lead.” — Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg, the American poet and writer who is widely considered one of the most influential artists of all time and acted as a pioneering member of the Beat Generation, helping to establish a counterculture that expanded into film, music and much more. While Ginsberg’s 1956 poem Howl helped lay the foundations for Beat culture, he was quickly followed by the work of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, which would famously make its way to the big screen in a more direct correlation between the influences.
Ginsberg famously sought inspiration from music, frequently including music in his poetry. While the likes of Bob Dylan, The Clash and Patti Smith have either inspired—or been inspired—by Ginsberg, the poet was less forthcoming in discussing his relationship with cinema and the art of acting.
Having lived and thrived in New York City’s bohemian artist hangout of the East Village, Ginsberg was around when, in 1987, Youngman Kim opened the first of ‘Kim’s Video & Music’ shops which became a popular location for the well-known personalities who lived in the area.
Apparently, as a running feature, Kim used to ask the more famous customers who would enter his shop to pick out some of their top ten favourite films—a request Ginsberg was all too happy to partake in. While a lot of the lists created by Kim’s have been lost in the pre-internet pit, The Allen Ginsberg Project were able to unearth his favoured selection of movies.
While we have been unable to find information about the date of Ginsberg’s list, it’s worth pointing out that the most recent film is Ron Rice’s 1960 effort, The Flower Thief. In contrast, the earliest selection is Battleship Potemkin, the 1925 Soviet silent film by Sergei Eisenstein.
Elsewhere there’s couple of mentions for Jean Cocteau and Marcel Carné. See the full list, below.
Allen Ginsberg’s top 10 favourite films:
- Pull My Daisy – Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, 1959.
- Battleship Potemkin – Sergei Eisenstein, 1925.
- Jean Renoir – The Grand Illusion, 1937.
- The Flower Thief – Ron Rice, 1960.
- The Blood of a Poet – Jean Cocteau, 1930.
- Orpheé – Jean Cocteau, 1950.
- Port of Shadows – Marcel Carné, 1938.
- Children of Paradise – Marcel Carné, 1945.
- Pépé le Moko – Julian Duvivier, 1937.
- Heaven and Earth Magic – Harry Smith, 1957 – 1962.