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Beat Film Series

In conjunction with the exhibition On the Road with the Beats, the Harry Ransom Center presents the Beat Film Series, beginning Wednesday, April 2 and continuing every Wednesday throughout April. All screenings take place at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz at 7 p.m.

The Beats did not limit themselves to one exclusive medium, foraying into visual arts, music, performance art and film. The themes of Beat films generally mirror those of Beat literature: post-war alienation, anxiety, loneliness and the pursuit of something meaningful in the profoundly traumatized, newly atomic world. This film series will immerse audiences in the avant-garde film scene of the mid-1950s to 1960s. It includes films by Beats, about Beats, and films that reflect or were inspired by the aesthetic innovations of the Beats.

  • Frank Paine's Motion Picture (1956), 4 min., 16 mm. This film documents a culture in perpetual movement, shot from the windows of an automobile traveling from the Midwest to New York City. Print courtesy of the Film-makers; Cooperative of New York.
  • Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's Pull My Daisy (1959), 28 min., 35 mm. Written and narrated by Jack Kerouac and starring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Delphine Seyrig, and other Beats, this film examines a day in the life of a Beat couple and their incorrigible friends. Frank was an influential photographer, and Leslie was an abstract expressionist painter. Print courtesy of Alfred Leslie and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Ed Bland's Cry of Jazz (1958), 35 min. Digital. An intense meditation on jazz and race in the late fifties. Thanks to Atavistic and Osmund Music.
  • Shirley Clarke's Bridges-Go-Round (1958), 4 min., 16 mm. Stunning colorization and editing characterize this footage of bridges, notably the Brooklyn Bridge, set to jazz. Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema.
  • Stan Brakhage's Anticipation of the Night (1958), 40 min., 16 mm. An attempt to deconstruct the act and experience of seeing, this film captures a man's day through metaphor, editing, and vivid camerawork. Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema.

  • Stan Brakhage's Desistfilm (1954), 7 min., 16 mm. This early Brakhage creation is a horror movie-like montage in his characteristic impressionistic style. Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema.
  • Shirley Clarke's Skyscraper (1959), 20 min. 35 mm. Skyscraper breaks down the built landscape of New York City via the demolition of a functional but tattered building and the erection of a sleek new skyscraper. Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • John Cassavetes's Shadows (1959), 87 min., 35 mm. A beautifully restored print of the early classic about the convoluted relationship between a light-skinned woman, her white boyfriend, and her brother. This film creates a stark contrast with Hollywood notions of street youth and culture of the time. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Shadows Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

  • Alfred Leslie's The Last Clean Shirt (1964), 39 min., 16 mm. Shot in one long take from the back seat of a wandering convertible, the audience watches as the silent driver is subjected to a treatise on angst, delivered by his female passenger. Print courtesy of Alfred Leslie and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Peter Whitehead's Wholly Communion (1965), 33 min., 16 mm. A documentary record of the Royal Albert Hall in 1965 in London. While Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso, and others read, 7,000 people filled the hall, and 3,000 more waited outside. Print courtesy of Contemporary Films, London, UK.
  • Anthony Balch and William S. Burroughs's Towers Open Fire (1962), 10 min., 35 mm. A print with hand-colored cells, of a filmic representation of Burroughs's radical “cut-up” technique. Its title is taken from the phrase repeated in the film by Burroughs himself. Print courtesy of the British Film Institute, London, UK.
  • Christopher MacLaine's The End (1953), 35 min., 16 mm. and Beat (1958), 4 min. 16 mm. MacLaine's early experimental short feature The End distractedly follows six random people through a frustratingly quotidian day to a preordained yet unexpected climax, capturing the uneasy veneer of postwar America. Beat uses similar techniques to depict San Francisco Beat culture. Print courtesy of Film-Maker' Cooperative of New York.

  • Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (1963), 29 min., 35 mm. At a motorcycle gang's party, all the women are asked to leave. The result a wild montage of bad party behavior is an early homoerotic icon. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation.
  • Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), 3 min., 35 mm. This shorter Anger piece features a young man lovingly washing his custom car, raising questions of material priorities while simultaneously celebrating them. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation.
  • Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood (1959), 66 min., 35mm. The only Beatsploitation film in the series, this camp classic tells the story of a nerdy busboy in a coffeehouse whose works transform him into an art star. Print courtesy of Swank Motion Pictures.

Tickets are required and can be purchased at the Alamo Drafthouse website. Discounts are available for students, members of the Ransom Center, and the Austin Film Society. Ticketsfor each night are $8.25, or a series pass is available for $25.

On the Road with the Beats traces the travels of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and their friends across America and the globe. The exhibition runs through August 3.

This event is co-sponsored by the College of Communication and the Department of Radio-Television-Film.

Media sponsors: The Austin Chronicle and The Austinist

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Film stills. Click to enlarge.

Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's Pull My Daisy (1959)


Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz
320 E. 6th Street

Tickets are required.


Department of Radio-Television-Film Austin Film Society


Austin Chronicle