Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Christopher Felver (U.S., 2009)
Christopher Felver in Person
One of the most powerful moments in Christopher Felver’s portrait of Lawrence Ferlinghetti takes place during World War II, when the young Navy serviceman found himself walking through the ruins of Nagasaki, less than two months after the atomic blast. “It made me an instant pacifist,” he says simply. The realization that his own country was capable of such an act, coupled with exposure to radical San Francisco poet Kenneth Rexroth, helped Ferlinghetti forge his path from disillusioned G.I. to philosophical anarchist; bookstore owner and publisher under the famed City Lights moniker (poet Billy Collins compares City Lights’ impact to “rolling a grenade into a library”); free-speech icon; and, eventually, the world’s most-read poet. Felver’s long friendship with Ferlinghetti yields some rare interviews with his subject, supplemented by an impressive set of testimonials from, among others, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Dennis Hopper, Amiri Baraka, Dave Eggers, and Jack Hirschman. Deftly interspersing these voices with archival photos, video, and audio, Felver vividly reveals a true American literary legend, turning ninety this year and still writing, painting, publishing, and speaking out. At the dawn of the age of television, despite the complacent mood of the nation, a generation of American youth actually became excited about literature as a means of pushing the culture forward. That powerful contradiction, and the vibrant literary community that continues in San Francisco today, is a direct result of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
• Photographed by Felver. (76 mins)