Beat Angel – the Spirit of Kerouac
By
J. Gordon
12/4/2006 11:29:11 AM

“Angels are everywhere. There are no coincidences,” is one of the first memorable lines of the independent film, Beat Angel – the Spirit of Kerouac [Beat Angel Productions, LLC], the story of beat poet Jack Kerouac’s spirit come back to live on the road again, inhabiting the body of a bum. Meanwhile, sullen Girard Tripp (Frank Tabbita}, a gifted writer living a life of anonymity and disgust, scowls and complains as the crowd in his favorite dive flock around this crazy charming vagrant (Vincent Balestri) who believes he’s Jack Kerouac (and we, the omniscient viewer, knows it to be true).

One doesn’t have to be familiar with Jack Kerouac’s work to come away with an appreciation for Kerouac, and beat poetry (from ‘beatific,’ Kerouac says in the film) in general. While it’s true this literary form was not always good, well-crafted or laden with meaning beyond what it is--it is certainly an entertaining show and Balestri captures Kerouac in a believable, captivating way.

Some of ‘Kerouac’s’ most entertaining moments are the story reenactments and interviews with himself—where, in manic delivery, he changes voices and facial expressions. It’s like watching Laurel and Hardy’s “Who’s On First” skit, rewritten for writers, artists, musicians and athletes.

As is true for a lot of indie movies, there’s a hokey weirdness in the low-budget restrictions—dark lighting, fewer cameras, actors and scenes—that lend a sort of charm to the right kind of audience who’s maybe a little bored with the glitz and effects of Hollywood.

Low-budget movies should stay away from dream sequences, however, and Beat Angel is no exception. While it seems they were striving for a Twin Peaks kind of weirdness, it comes off as awkward, silly and disjointed.

“I’m glad I’m not a writer,” the character Girard continually deadpans, a miserable puissant to Kerouac’s joy. Watching Kerouac’s skits about editors and the publishing industry, the painful lessons of cutting a story to meet the required number of pages, the mean falseness of the industry, we almost wish for Girard that he was telling the truth.

“Take care of your artists while they’re alive,” is one of the many messages of this film and there are quite a few lines like this one that stay with the viewer long after the movie’s over. My personal favorite: “All good poems go to heaven.”

If you love writing and the arts, or if you just want to get a sense of what Jack Kerouac was about, Beat Angel is a fun way to waste a little bit of time. Directed by Randy Allred. 99 minutes and included deleted scenes, writers commentary and subtitles in French, Spanish and English. You’ll also enjoy the 19 minute film included of Balestri performing his play, Kerouac: The Essence of Jack"

 

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