A compelling film about the writers and personalities of the Beat Generation, The Source is both a documentary and a dramatization. Director Chuck Workman has compiled a startling amount of footage, home movies, photographs, television appearances, and interviews. Although the film focuses on Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, it also features Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, and Ken Kesey. Interspersed among the mainly chronological chapters are passages from the works of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs read by actors John Turturro, Johnny Depp, and Dennis Hopper.

Despite its name, the film's historical scope is much broader than the just the origins of the Beat movement. The immense influence Beat writers had on the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s and on the more recent spoken word movement, is successfully woven into the film. Workman also effectively shows how the caricature of the beatnik -- with his turtleneck sweater, beret, and goatee -- pervaded pop culture and demonstrated only the movement’s more superficial manners.

The Source includes footage from Pull My Daisy, a short film written and narrated by Kerouac, starring Ginsberg and Corso. Though the complete faux-documentary film (directed by influential photographer Robert Frank) is difficult to find through conventional distributors, enthusiasts will find the search extremely gratifying.

Written and directed by Chuck Workman (1999). Not Rated.