"BEAT ANGEL is a remarkable film done in a style that is as original and refreshing as the work of Kerouac itself."

by David Amram

Spontaneous and always communicative, the film tells a story that keeps you engrossed, thanks to the brilliant performances of all the actors, who always seem as natural as Kerouac's characters do when you meet them while reading his books.

Like those of us who played jazz during our era, and told our musical stories by using the harmonies of familiar songs to improvise new stories based on familiar material, this film is equally well structured.

It is a series of variations and improvisations based on the spirit of our era, and the flavor of Jack's work, seen by young people in 2004, rather than being a docudrama or dramatization of Jack's books.

There are hilarious sendups of poetry slams, stone hearted publishers and Wanna-Beats, balanced by moments of passion and reflection that are deeply touching.

This film will, like "Pull My Daisy' find its own audience and enter into the tiny repertoire of films made about our spirit and our Era that will last.

It will be shown and appreciated as long as people read our books, look at our paintings and listen to our music.

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers and I all made "Pull my Daisy" in 1959 in part to show our kids and grandkids someday that we were for real and able to enjoy life and one another, rather than being a soured group of stereotypical "Beats."  "Pull My Daisy' reflected the fun we had together, as well as the hard work we did when alone.

Like "Pull My Daisy' and  Henry Ferrini's masterpiece "Lowell Blues", "Beat Angel" is free of any Hollyweirdness and Post Modern gloom.  Instead, "Beat Angel" is full of soulfulness, joy, surprises, warmth and humor, always full of positive energy, all of which serve as a refreshing antidote to those who wish to incarcerate our spontaneous and idealistic visions of America into the academic tombs of a Penitentiary of the Beat Generation, to be squeezed drop by drop from a bottle of "Beat" Formaldehyde, rather than opening up the doors and inviting everyone to join us.

"Beat Angel" is a celebratory toast to Jack and all of us, with drinks on the house!!


David Amram is a composer/conductor/multi-instrumentalist and was Kerouac's principal musical collaborator 1956 until his death.  He is the author of the book, Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac.


"Beat Angel: the spirit of Kerouac" REVIEWS

originally published at Kerouac.com

by Jerry Cimino jerry@kerouac.com
The Beat Museum
540 Broadway
San Francisco, CA  94133

The reason John Cassady and Josh Wilbur and I went to the MethodFest film festival was to attend the world premiere of Beat Angel, a film starring Vincent Balestri.  Many of you have undoubtedly seen Vincent on stage as he has been touring the country doing his one-man show about Jack Kerouac for close to twenty years.  Thank goodness we all had the good fortune that Vincent hooked up with Randy Allred and Frank Tabbita and Bruce Boyle to capture forever on film his magnificent performance as Jack Kerouac.

I've seen probably every film on Kerouac and the Beats and while there are many good ones, Beat Angel is unique in the sense it is not a documentary but a full-length feature and it is done superbly.  I think the reason I like it so much is I found kindred spirits in Vincent and the other people involved in the making of this film - and the reason is because they tried to convey, and indeed succeeded in capturing on film, the Spirit that Jack brought to his art. 

We first see Vincent as an alcoholic bum on the street and immediately learn that he is destined to die the next day and that the spirit of Jack Kerouac will enter his "meat machine" body and pass on the flame to an inspired yet cynical writer named Gerard (Frank Tabbita) whose hidden writings must be seen by the world so the flame can continue to be passed on and on and on.  Gerard can not accept that the spirit of Jack Kerouac has returned to earth and spars with Kerouac continuously ('my brother Gerard was a saint') in a series of showdowns that take him from Kerouac's football glory days with the re-creation of the famous Thanksgiving Day game that introduced Jack to Lou Little and Columbia to the top of Desolation Peak and the beauty of Hozomeen and the void.

The highlight of Beat Angel, of course, was Balestri's interpretation of Jack.  The genius of this film is the producers allowed the talent that has been delighting audiences all over North America for twenty years free reign to express - and express he did!  Vince's message from Kerouac is "speak from your heart".  "Speak your truth," Jack tells us.  "Live your truth!" 

And Vincent speaks Jack's truth in scene after scene, intermixing his own formidable talents with the messages so many of us love about Kerouac.  In one ten minute scene at the Poetry Slam the spirit of Jack in the bum's body delights the onscreen audience by telling about how it all began with the sound of Charlie Parker and then the rap of Neal Cassady.  I was sitting next to Neal's son, John, at the time and he was enthralled while watching Vincent's interpretation of his father, "That's Neal!  He's got Neal down perfect!"  And then I saw something I have rarely ever seen at a movie screening - the entire audience erupted in applause during the MIDDLE of the performance!  It was a magical moment that those of us who know a lot about these people and these times understood to be a true appreciation of brilliant talents expressing in a magnificent way.

...If you're anywhere close by I'd strongly encourage you to go - you'll thank me later.

This poetically inspired film chronicles the “afterlife” of writer Jack Kerouac, who comes back to Earth 30 years after his death to pass on the flame of creativity that still burns bright within him. Underscored by a bebop jazz rhythm and accented by the muddy hues of dimestore pulp novel book covers, the film follows a former writer and ex-Kerouac devotee who takes the opportunity of the 30 th anniversary of Jack’s death to debunk the legend to anyone who’ll listen. But the spirit of the Beat message is reborn when the man himself arrives on the scene and becomes the living embodiment of bop spontaneous prose. Intertwining both narrative and documentary elements, the film contains the best description of Kerouac’s writing philosophy I’ve ever heard and some interesting performances by random poets.

Featuring Vincent Balestri, America’s foremost Kerouac interpreter, whose live show Kerouac: The Essence of Jack, has toured since 1980.

Gregory Pleshaw
Santa Fe Film Festival

Films touching, fascinating, funny
RiverRun International Film Festival

Friday, April 23, 2004
Winston-Salem Journal
Tim Clodfelter

Beat Angel

The spirit of Jack Kerouac carries on in this film by director Randy Allred. On the day a club is to hold a poetry slam in honor of Kerouac, one of its patrons dies, only to rise claiming to have been possessed by the famed beat poet. Dejected writer Gerard Tripp (Frank Tabbita, who co-wrote the screenplay) is skeptical, but the other club patrons eagerly accept "Jack" (Vincent Balestri, another co-writer).

The story takes intriguing twists and turns as Gerard tries to prove that Jack is not who he claims to be, and Jack tries to rekindle Gerard's love of words. The film's depiction of a poetry slam goes on a bit too long, but Tabbita and Balestri are superb in their roles - as are Lisa Niemi and Amy Humphrey as the club owner and a young, hopeful writer.

Returns to top of page
Beat Angel: 
From Cloud Nine To Seventh Heaven
by Jason Eisenberg

My nerve ends have been tingling for days, but I've finally calmed down enough from the Beat Angel experience to write about it.  This new film Beat Angel is an illuminating tour de force about Jack Kerouac, spirituality, love, redemption and craziness, just to name a few.   It played the Kerouac Festival in Lowell, Ma and let me tell you, it changed my life!  Well sort of - but it's a wonderment - a hilarious and touching film;  indeed a tonic of epic proportions. The twists and turns of its neo-outrageous fortune  slayed this audience - all bug-eyed and bug-eared fellow zombies - as  Beat Angel cast its spell upon us.
              I laughed, I cried, I dug.

Vince Balestri as the Kerouactor is a certified genius - end of topic.  Perfect foil Frank Tabbita’s jaded protagonist, Gerard, comes fully four dimensional , pulling us reluctantly toward denoument.   All supporting cast  likewise compelling!  Poetry slam scenes should be outlawed - I almost died laughing.  The writing-direction-camera-lighting-editing-the sound-the fury-the music  swings my soul  up into a great cathedralhead of beauty. What you have here is an homage d'outrage!

    You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll dig!

Beat Angel creates a rarefied atmosphere of hope....a new tilt on the language of LOVE.....a new paradigm of resurrection -capitulation - holding on- letting go- raw and sautéd....heavy.... crazy...wild. WARNING:  brush up on your CPR technique.  You may be called upon to resuscitate your swooning fellow viewers…I have to get a copy of  Beat Angel...to put under my pillow….I need that  steady drip of  truth by osmosis!

Jason Eisenberg is a performance artist known especially
for his incarnations as '50s hipster comic Lord Buckley. 

the spirit
of Kerouac

From: Kathleen Hudson, PH.D.

Re: Educational potential of “Beat Angel”

I was excited years ago to showcase Vince Balestri and his presentation of “Kerouac: The Essence of Jack” on the Schreiner University campus. We are a small liberal arts university that honors various styles of learning. I used the program as a resource for all my literature and writing classes. I see the same potential for the film “Beat Angel.” If I can be of any help in setting up an opportunity for students and teachers to both see and use this film, let me know. I am excited about the possibility of a program in Austin, Texas.

Kathleen Hudson,  Ph.D.
Schreiner University
Kerrville, Texas

It is a distressing irony that, as Kerouac gains more stature within the academy, his works join the vast and dusty iconic literature students young enough to be his great grandchildren are made to study or choose to avoid.

In illuminating the humanity behind the texts, Beat Angel shows why Kerouac will always be relevant. This excellent film provides a resounding "Yes!" to the question, “Must I read Jack Kerouac?”

Dr. Jeff Weddle
Assistant Professor
University of Alabama

"Your film is one of the greatest impressions that I had here. You turned over our usual images of American cinema.  I am proud to know these people as you and I highly appreciate your deed in arts.

Your film describes openhearted people with dignity and character which are as mountains in our plain vanity, and it reproduces sincere, pure, keen feelings and great desire be close to these people and to be reliable friend to them. Film is made with good taste and excellent plays of actors.

It gives impression of real part of life which sometimes we miss in our race, but it always reminds us when we are alone. 

I congratulate you with your achievement, and I would like to see this film translated for Russian audience.


Ernest Grigorian
Visiting Professor Seattle Pacific University

"Lonesome Traveler has always been one my favorite books by the man named Kerouac. This new film encapsulates the spirit of Jack and brings it all back home!
It's food for the soul and the heart and reincarnates all the dharma of that most heavenly of bums!

I used to play a song about Jack with Natalie Merchant when we toured,
and it always breathed life into the crowd.

Jack is just as relevant today as he ever was. Check out this film and experience the vast influence that Jack poured onto the world!"

-- gabriel gordon

Gabriel Gordon has played his guitar and sung with Meshell Ndegeocello, Natalie Merchant, Lokua Kanza, Soulounge, and opened for George Benson and Bob Dylan. His new album is  Overwhelmed on Soular Music.

Beat Angel – the Spirit of Kerouac

J. Gordon

“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 [, Italian] and English. You’ll also enjoy the 19 minute film included of Balestri performing his play, Kerouac: The Essence of Jack"

Movie Review: Beat Angel - A Film About The Spirit Of Jack Kerouac

Written by Duke De Mondo
Published November 27, 2006

On October 21 of 1969, with the grog-battered liver misshapen and warped and slumped around his gallbladder like the folds of a heifer's arse stretched about the head of a fried sparrow, with his skin yellowed and his skull afire, Jack Kerouac let fly his last lilting haiku from atween the sheets in St Anthony's hospital, Florida, or front the telly in his living room, depending on who tells it. Kerouac, who had spent the past twenty years etching the blueprint for an original, spectacular, incendiary, wholly holy form of writing, he died the predictable, depressing, sad, uninspired death of the Renegade Writer.

That this man who dedicated half his life to kicking and pulling and tugging and spitting and lashing and thumping at cliché should die a cliché himself… God above, the irony of it all. Sure wouldn't it have you chuckling something wicked if it didn't break your bastard heart.

But there you go, such is life.

Now, couple nights past I was musing along these lines with my ladyfriend, Beautiful Ms Gillian, debating the ins and outs of Kerouac's life and death and weighing up The Work against All The Other Guff and pondering off and on with regards the shower o' insufferable, stuck-up goons wandering the train stations at all hours high on every click and every other clack of Kerouac's much-mythologized typewriter. "Those individuals" I yapped in-between pulls on a Mayfair King Size, "Those elitist, pompous tools, they are surely The Establishment's revenge for the Beat Generation."

"Have your fun" The Powers What Be done glowered, "But by Jesus you'll pay for it, I tell you that. And your children will pay for it. And their children. And their children's children. Then, it'll take a break on account of the children of those children will most likely be too busy playing with their second willies. But their sprogs, oh boys-a-boys, they'll pay a thousandfold what you paid. And the price? The braying and blowing of a thousand yaps in unison all gibbering wild about how On The Road changed their lives and do you know who you are, I bet you don't and no-one knows nothing 'till they've heard it told 'em through a fugg of stewed 'shroom."

The final victory is that no one will ever again read On The Road or Big Sur or even Howl or Naked Lunch or The First Third and if they do, they won't mention it in public, and why?

"Why?" asks Beautiful Ms Gillian.

"Because one o' them bastards might overhear, and next thing you know it's 'Oh, but you've never read it until you've heard it read, and you've never heard it read 'till you've heard it read on acid, and…' Saint's preserve us, sure it'd turn your head."

She stubbs out her cigarette and through the waft of smoke rising from the ashtray she says "That's a touch bitter for you, that. And anyroad, what are you doin' now, if not talking about it? And thirdly, what's the point of it all, also?"

The Point Of It All, it transpired, was that I had recently come into possession of a DVD entitled Beat Angel, being a film all about Jack Kerouac's spirit comes back to Earth on the thirtieth anniversary of his death for to inhabit the body of a vagrant, hang around at a beat poetry night being held in his honor and also discuss his life and work with a trio of struggling artists; the painter who gave up painting, the writer who gave up writing and the young lass still in awe of the power of a beautiful sentence lain o'er the page like an angel lain touching itself in the shadow of The Lord.

"Is it good?"

"Well that's the thing, I haven't watched it yet. I'm scared. I'm scared it's the work of one of them. I'm scared it'll be full of self-obsessed, pretentious knobs smoking dope and battering drumsticks off of beer-cans whilst a prat in a terrible sweater slurs for hours about some wank they heard their granddad having back when they were a kid."

"I think you should watch it" she says. "You love Jack Kerouac. You dig the purple parpin' of a bop-fried trumpet of an evening. You're pretentious and self-obsessed. Go for it."

"You're right" says I, and she was, and I did.

Now, what happened was this:

Some time ago, back in the coke-scourged haze of the nineteen and eighties, an actor/writer by the name of Vincent Balestri was busy wandering stages left and right and here and there delivering a one man show by the name of Kerouac: The Essence Of Jack. The play, conceived by both Balestri and Kerouac's first wife, Edie, turned out to be a funny, insightful, inspiring account of the fella's life and work and so, as is only fair, it proved right successful.

Around the arse-end of the nineties, Balestri was concerning himself with bringing the show to the screen, discussing the matter at great length with fellow actor Frank Tabbita, a fella who, coincidentally, bears uncanny resemblance to Howard Marks, being another scribbler (although one scarcely fit to wipe the commas from Kerouac's blurbs) right venerated by, y'know, them, on account of he got high a whole lot one time.

Tabbita probably said something along the lines of "Well, now, it's a grand play, but by the friar's o' Culloden, boy, would it be anything a man or a woman might want to sit afore in a movie picture-show for an hour and 39 minutes?"

"It's that and plenty more" I dare say Balestri asserted. "I'd wager they'll do that and they'll also buy the DVD with an excellent writers' commentary and also a 30 minute film of the stage show and a couple deleted scenes, and they'll enjoy it so much they'll forget all about the wanker stood front of them in the queue for Borat saying about the night he got drunk and wrote a novel there and then just nearly like Kerouac, and would've had it published, too, except it was just too personal."

Balestri and Tabbita enlisted the help of director Randy Allred and writer Bruce Boyle and lo and behold, there it is, Beat Angel, A Film About The Spirit Of Jack Kerouac, and also, conveniently enough, The Film About Which I'm Talking.

Beat Angel is a curious affair, and I'll tell you why here and now whilst I remember for I'd be a man fond of a digression if given half a chance. It's a curious affair because it seems to capture with right alarming clarity The Essence Of Jack whilst also being devoid of a good chunk of what that Essence had to do with.

To wit; Style.

Kerouac's writing has plenty to say about this and the other, and both of them articles are often worth a good fourteen or fifteen minutes-worth of contemplation far-side of a read over, but he also marries that substance with an incredible style. You might've heard tell of such things in one of the eighteen million and seven articles written about Kerouac's style in the past week. You might've came away from them with a thought in your head about how right enough, there's no doubting that the man had a wicked style about him.

Beat Angel, as a motion picture, has plenty of substance. A man can scarcely skip from one frame to the next without hitting his shins the fuck off of a great wadge of substance sticking up out the floor-tiles. What it doesn't have is very much style, and what style it is in possession of is that of a trailer for a 1978 Abel Ferrara film about a man who has no style wandering stylelessly about a street nobody can find because it looks like a crap cardigan.

It's oft-times stagey, the performances are somewhat eccentric of occasion, i.e., some of them aren't very good, the sound leaves a lot to be desired and visually, it's none too appealing at all. Whilst some folks, the aforementioned Mr Ferrara there amongst them, have made a virtue of such an aesthetic drought, Randy Allred oft-times seems like he's shrugged his shoulders and figured to blazes with it, the substance'll carry us through.

Which it does, so plenty marks for foresight.

At this point in the proceedings, me sat scribbling in a café filled with Spanish revelers all out their minds waiting for the fuck-club next door to open, a gentleman arrives out the gloom of the late evening and says some things along the lines of the following;

"It's all well and good jerking the knee like yonder knee just jerked o'er that there page" says he, "But is it at all true what you're saying? Is it true, right enough, that from start to end Beat Angel employs none style whatever? I'd be right amazed if that were indeed the case."

"Well" says I, "To tell you the truth, there are some stylistic virtues here and there, wee moments that pierce that veil of inherent… ugliness, for want of a better word. For one thing - and it's a marvel of a thing in itself - it is undeniably charming for to see a grainy, 16mm motion picture in this day and age. Bejeesus it warms the cockles fierce to see an ultra-low-budget independent film that's actually a film, as opposed to a video."

"It is that" says the fella.

"And also, while I'm perched in the coal-hole of this particular train of thought, the scene that intercuts the death of Jack Kerouac with his momentary rebirth via yon hobo protagonist, that's right beautifully handled too."

"And what of the…"

"And then, and then" says I, interrupting with a great flail of the arms, "Now, the open-mic 'Kerouac' performance that serves as the centerpiece of the whole enterprise, a breathless bop-lashed Definition of the man's manners and means delivered by a tsunami-tongued Balestri, that right there is perfectly realized. And so too are the biographical sketches potting the narrative there, wonderful scenes wherein Balestri plays both Jack and, by way of example, for I know you've got a thirst for some examples…"

"By Jesus I have that."

"By way of example, says I, his publisher, or his high-school sports coach, or whoever."

The old fella blows a fistful of nose-muck into a scrunched up wad of pink toilet paper and wipes the yap with the back of a hand. "So for that loose triumvirate of flourishes" he sniffs, "If nothing else, you could almost say that your remark about the film has no style is in itself a terrible fallacy."

"I dare say so. But if'n I'm to give a right proper review of the whole enterprise, which is what I'm set for doing as a matter of fact, it's surely only fair that I must mention the overall sense of none much prettiness nor flair whilst also leaving space aside for a few points the likes of which we've raised here and now."

"I'd be keen to see the state of your tongue after tryin' to wrap it around such a contradictory set of musings."

And me too, I'm soon thinking. And me too.

"But enough of the style" says Beautiful Ms Gillian the following evening, "What of this substance?" She says this to me whilst the pair of us are stood about a pool table in a bar a shit fling's shy of the university. She says this and thank God for that, for if she hadn't I could've spent another twelve paragraphs talking about how much most of the mercifully-brief dream-sequences annoyed me and what have you and afore you know where you are you've got a Negative Review, you've got Three of a possible Nine stars and no, that would be wrong, for I enjoyed Beat Angel immensely.

Principal to my enjoyment was the writing, fittingly enough, but I'll concern myself with that in due course, for first of all a man must rightly applaud the central performance of Mr Vincent Balestri. The central performance of Mr Vincent Balestri is a thing of no small wonder, right enough, straddling that line 'twixt cute caricature and Proper Performance with incredible, assured grace, much like Phillip Seymour Hoffman managed in Capote, a film about, if my sources are accurate, celebrated author Dean Koontz.

The Voice, specifically, is eerily accurate. Thon banter-patterns are spot-on, all monotone stretches all a sudden set upon by manic, 'lectric charges of jiving, evangelistic delirium, and then again with the drooping and the slouching of the vowels and the shit-myself-waddle of the consonants.

"Would you say he's the stand out then?" Ms Gillian enquires as she pots the black for to shame the five red blotches still looming out the green on account of I'm crap at pool. "No, on account of I'm exceptionally good."

"Fair enough. And yes, Balestri is the man the eyes crave and the ears pine for throughout much of every scene. Although, in saying that, the other principals are by no means a pox on the fine profession of the acting. For sure, there's the odd line delivery here and there has a fella pickin' splinters out his ears for a fortnight, but now and then they right blossom, they do. Soon, a fella's noting the sadness in your painter woman's eyes, the flickering of both naivety and uncertainty in the shrug of the young scribbler's shoulders and the curious amalgam of sorrow and resentment and spite and affection all flushing about Tabbita's well-slung jowls."

And then, as I hinted up yonder, there's the writing.

The poetry let loose now and then for to thunder about the screen like a herd o' buffalo afire with rabies and with Christ… the funny, altogether right touching slabs of biographical anecdote related with much color and charm and wit every so often… the grand banter about Kerouac was a God, no, he was a twat matter of fact, no, he wasn't etc etc… All of it, most every syllable, is glorious. Refreshing and thought-provoking and sore beguiling, and by the punctured palms o' Padre Pio it's liable for to leave a man with fierce erection of the brains, or a touch o' cerebral panty-weep, if'n you're perchance a lady.

"It's inspiring, is what it is" I'm telling a fella sat half-asleep 'front a re-run of The Good Life. "Inspiring."

"Oh aye, is that right?"

"It is right, an' all. Inspiring."

For as much as it hollers wild about Kerouac, for as much as it has the man's name in the title and his words running rings around the celluloid, for as much as all of that, Beat Angel is nonetheless a flick less concerned with Kerouac than it is with Inspiration.

At risk of soiling my Review Card beyond any measure of hope however faltering, I'll go ahead and relate that immediately before and after viewing Beat Angel I myself was sat six chapters deep in the scribbling of a grand novel that's been frying my fuck right useless for much of the past seven months. Battering at one sentence in particular, I was, and with the smoke stinging my eyes and the nausea stringing a terrible chorus o'er the stave of my caffeine-scourged gut.

In need of a kick to the stimulation glands, and with none coffee left to my Mother's maiden name, I watched Beat Angel and found myself, far side of it all, with at least five words I'd been lacking hitherto, and if those five words weren't the finest I'd utilized all week then by God they were right close.

It's impossible to watch Beat Angel and not be inspired, is the truth of a case. Play it front a drunk and you'll find he's concocted seven brand new hangovers first thing in the morning. It's like yonder Dream Machine William Burroughs sat staring at for hours of a winter's morn, it sets light the crud all hanging about the thought-chutes and melds the resultant pus into something not a skip and a twirl north of Thoughts Worth Thinking.

And, praise Jandek, Thoughts Worth Writing where I was concerned.

The ashen-chinned crowd, it cries Conclude, and so aye, In Conclusion;

Even here and now in this year of 2024 or whatever the fuck it is, even now when a man can't fart twice in succession without a youngster sniffin' about the arse for to upload the texture of the gas onto YouTube, even now when no one remembers what it was like to see something that didn't clip and stop and start every so often and with the sound running four minutes and 14 seconds ahead of the visuals, even now, says I, Beat Angel could quite possibly appear jarringly lo-fi to some folks.

"The lower the fi the better!" cries a lad wearing a Bonnie Prince Billy armband, and I raise a hand, I say "You'll get no argument from me. But for some of us here it could rightly put us off proceeding much further than the opening two and a half minutes."

But that would be a grand mistake, because whilst Beat Angel is far from perfect and whilst it lacks a bit in the aesthetics, it is nonetheless for all of that a joy to be in the presence of. It's got Heart enough for a thousand and six renditions of What About Love? It has enthusiasm and charm and by God it has a right savage way with the words.

What more could a man ask for with regards a flick concerned with Jack Kerouac?

"Maybe a bit where he points out the myriad myths about his life and work and corrects them, since for a film so preoccupied with Truth, it is right enough well indebted to Fiction."

Well, maybe so, but in the world of Films What Are Indeed Real And Have Indeed Been Made, Beat Angel is as beautifully soulful a picture about Jack and Writing and Time and all that stuff as anyone has yet gone ahead and conceived.

In the still of the wee hours with the sleepers still unpopped from the packet and with the head hung weary on my shoulders, I figured I'd forget about Chapter Seven for a time and watched Beat Angel again, and then the 1986 feature documentary Kerouac. As fine a double bill as I've ever been sat afore, that right there.

I fell asleep with my head on a week-old Guardian.

Thanks folks

The Duke (Aaron McMullan to his parents and the clergy) is a Northern Irish writer, performer and insomniac currently residing in County Antrim. He is the creator of Mondo Irlando, wherein his scribblings and hollerings can be found, and is currently working towards completing Chapter One, Paragraph One of The Great American Novel. The twist is that it isn’t very great. Nor American.

Click to purchase the "BEAT ANGEL" DVD at FilmBaby.com
Click to purchase the "BEAT ANGEL" DVD at FilmBaby.com
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DVD - Beat Angel - the Spirit of Kerouac

Reviewed by Erick Mertz
Cosmik Debris   cosmik.com

Is Jack Keruoac a bodhisattva -- that mystic poet more at home in the quiet woods of the north Cascades, communing with Gary Snyder? Or is he merely a drunk, French-American failed athlete whose after-hours party ramblings about trips out west were the unintentional stirrings of the so-called Beat generation's engine?
Likely, you'd find observers of Keruoac (and American literature, as he fits there now) split along these lines. A central contradiction is at the heart of a man whose dual pre-occupations were with clear headed mediation and copious wine consumption - often in the same narrative. That schism is where the film Beat Angel tries to drive its narrative action. A re-incarnated Jack (the optimist, doe-eyed, dreaming variety) comes to life for one night in Seattle on the anniversary of his own death and attempts to touch the life of Gerard, a man living hand-to-mouth as a writer in the opposite guise (that of the cynical, torn up inside, city dweller). Jack and Gerard clash outwardly, feud for women's attention and ultimately (careful not to provide a spoiler here) have profound, life-changing influence on one another.

What isn't up for debate is that Keruoac was the prime voice in a movement that opened the mid-1950's youth of America up to breaking down the doors of their bedroom community (Ginsburg or Burroughs fans might argue). The idea of driving, drinking, smoking marijuana, carousing on buses, exploring, and doing so from a genuine place in the heart is Jack's real legacy almost 40 years after his death. The novel On The Road is synonymous with that true, restless heart, and everything afterwards seems to live in account of that wanderlust. Keruoac will always be known as one who heroically freed a generation from the unforgivable sin of repeating its parent's mundanely drawn path.

What filmmaker Randy Allred does well with Beat Angel is draw on that undeniable legacy. The narrative seems to trip when it tries to make a compelling case for exploring its subject's contradiction, but it does celebrate the poet/author's time on earth very well. Vincent Balestri plays Jack (physically the older, broken down Big Sur version of Keruoac) with a child like curiosity, one that either works or doesn't depending on what he is interpreting in the given scene. If it's the wandering, mendicant, touching a young woman's heart, then it's passable - almost interesting, as his charm is almost sticky to the touch. The problem comes when he clashes with the equally hot and cold Gerard (Frank Tabbita) in performances that are more fun to look at than anything else. Their clashes are almost of the purely superficial variety, and listening to them is akin to reading a freshman art student's term paper on realism vs. fantasy.

It isn't fair to go too far in breaking up Allred's film though. The legacy he's undertaken in Beat Angel is the most daunting in post-war American literature - no one else comes with more feeling and layperson connection; more room for understanding and misunderstanding that Keruoac. Ultimately, this is a rough, artfully created film, more for fans of the man's style. A clear headed examination of his substance might be yet another post-humous release from City Light's Books away.

© 2007 - Erick Mertz



Beat Scene  No.52

A highly unusual film production. Originally I had thought this might be a straight filming of the long running Vincent Balestri one man show on Jack Kerouac, but it isn't. Instead it is an extension of that, where Balestri is part of a main quartet of players, Frank Tabbita, Lisa Niemi and Amy Humphrey. Don't want to reveal too much about the film and spoil your enjoyment of it. More Robert Frank and PULL MY DAISY than any proposed murdering of the Kerouac story by Hollyweird. That can surely only be a good thing? On what must have been a tattered shoestring of a budget Balestri and company investigate the possibilities of Jack Kerouac's life.

Balestri is very Kerouac Zen, none of the wild boorishness of his later life, even though Balestri is a mature actor himself, his Kerouac accent conveys Jack in a meek as a lamb, safe in Heaven tone. If you recall Kerouac speaking to Prof Charles Jarvis in that chaotic 1962 Lowell radio interview, where Jarvis presses him about his brother Gerard and Jack is trembling with emotion. Well, there is an element of that about Vincent Balestri's delivery. Lamb no lion, and all the better for it. Frank Tabbita is cynical 'Gerard' and Kerouac's (Balestri) presence has a profound impact on him. As it does on Niemi and Humphrey.

And the film gets to Kerouac's old lookout post in the Cascades, that must have really stretched the production's purse strings. The film has won a few awards and I can understand why. Lots of DVD special features and not just a film.

Do not expect mainstream gloss and slickness, very much a character based film with the limitations and positives that brings. Redemption is very much a theme and without giving away too much the themes hint at the power of the Kerouac legacy, his storehouse of writing that will be read for a hundred years to come. The company here deserve big credit for a valuable contribution to the Kerouac landscape.

                                                            Eric Jacobs

Beat Scene is a UK print periodical edited by Kevin Ring.  Please visit www.beatscene.net

Back ‘on the road’ from beyond: Beat Angel

by Synchronized Chaos staff
January 26, 2010

With a grainy, indie, half-lit café feel, with brass sounds more akin to instruments tuning up than a jazz performance, the new film Beat Angel reflects the restless, transcendent creativity of Jack Kerouac and other Beatniks. Desperate to reach a discouraged author, Kerouac returns from the dead for one day, performing at a poetry slam in his honor and befriending amazed, but skeptical audience members.

Balestri embodies Kerouac throughout the film, most effectively during a highly energetic open mic performance, holding my interest for its entire ten minutes. Defining ‘spontaneous poetry’ via spoken word examples, Balestri relates aspects of the Beat aesthetic: the use of jazz rhythms, recognizing and speaking the truth about our common humanity, and reworking the travel memoir genre. Sometimes slow and academic, other times fast and musical for illustrative purposes, his presentation covers a great variety of intellectual and emotional ground.

Beat Angel celebrates its protagonists’ creativity without smoothing over the darker aspects of their lives. The film’s most complex character, Gerard Tripp, slams Kerouac and other Beats as troubled, overrated drunks. And the movie opens with Kerouac dying alone, curtains drawn in his mother’s living room, with only whiskey and old cooking shows for comfort.

The instrumental sounds follow the characters, sometimes even as they sit alone, giving the sense that something happens within their heads that only they hear, or perhaps choose to hear. The disjointed background noise during certain scenes – Kerouac’s death, and his memory of his brother’s illness and passing – is isolating, restless, even more jarring than silence. Perhaps the film suggests here that some of the Beats did not choose the writing life so much as turn to writing and other arts to quiet and satisfy the inner voices, the questions and contradictions inherent in their lives and times.

Gerard, bitter over his lack of commercial success as a writer, lives in a dingy apartment and hides unsubmitted manuscripts away in a trunk. In one of the film’s most poignant gestures, the reincarnated Kerouac inspires not through his posthumous fame and success, but through how he sought beauty and meaning through his times of personal loss and weakness. In a lengthy dream sequence, Kerouac and Gerard remember Kerouac’s brother, who passed away at a young age. The candle and church/funerary imagery suggest that Gerard abandoning his writing would represent another form of death, whether or not he ever lands a book contract.

Others draw strength from Kerouac during his one-day stint on Earth, including a shy, beginning writer and the bartender, who once aspired to become a painter. Amy Humphrey brings genuine openness to personal and artistic growth to her role, illustrated by how she thinks through his advice. I was left wishing for a little more backstory and complexity for her character: what did she write, why was she drawn to Kerouac and the Beats, etc – although I appreciate her performance. Lisa Niemi pulls off her part as a grown career woman with a past of unexplored dreams, illustrating how people in all stages of life can benefit from mentorship and inspiration: beginners, the hardworking but discouraged, and even those who have let go of old aspirations.

Beat Angel avoids adding to the personality-cult around Jack Kerouac and instead celebrates writing and art in themselves. Kerouac himself scans Gerard’s bookshelf, pointing out how everyone learns from others, and how he studied Whitman, Emerson, and other older authors. And his final message to Gerard is not to write more like Kerouac, but to pursue and develop his own style and craft.

Only an hour and a half, Beat Angel is a short film, and some of its characters’ stories could be expanded. Overall, the piece is very thoughtful, evocative, and reflective of the experimental artistic work of the Beat writers. People can understand and enjoy Beat Angel even without knowing much about the period’s writers, and the film explains basic ideas in an entertaining enough style to make the film accessible and enjoyable.