The Beat Hotel: Enough With the Bohemians, Please!

I have seen many passable minds of my generation fritter away their best creative years working on tributes to the creative minds of past generations, and still nothing seems to slow this parade of invariably awed, usually nostalgic, rarely insightful artist docs. Scaling new heights of inessentiality is The Beat Hotel, which chronicles the period, roughly 1958–63, when a low-rent, squalid residential hotel at 9 Rue Git-le-Coeur, Paris, was home to expat poets and artists including Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs. This fertile creative soil, from which bloomed Ginsberg’s Kaddish and Burroughs’ cut-up technique, was, per one interviewee, “bohemia working at its best”—but, these more famous boarders all being gone, it remains to their former neighbors to hit the usual talking points, perpetuate the legends, and generally Beat a dead horse: Here we have Brit photographer Harold Chapman, Scot painter Elliot Rudie, and Jean-Jacques Lebel, the French translator of Howl. Spicing up the proceedings with some amateurish re-enactments and animations, by now de rigueur in this sort of thing, veteran documentarian Alan Govenar ties things together with a scrubby crowd gathering for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the renovated four-star Hotel du Vieux Paris that now resides at 9 Rue Git-le-Coeur. The Beat Hotel serves roughly the same uninspiring memorial purpose.