DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS SERIES: BEAT NIGHT
Pull My Daisy
The Last Clean Shirt [Excerpt]
Note: HENRY FERRINI, director of Lowell Blues, will present film commentary and answer questions immediately following the screening.
The following is a review of Pull My Daisy that appeared in The New York Times, July 12, 2000:
The following appears on the website of the New York Underground Film Festival:
The Last Clean Shirt is a rarely-screened film that has become even more intriguing and thought-provoking with the passage of time. A young black man and white woman get in a car at Astor Place, tape an alarm clock to the dashboard, and start driving around as the woman yaks in an unknown language. This action is repeated three times, each segment featuring a different subtitled stream-of-consciousness narration by poet Frank O’Hara. Predating the rise of structural filmmakers like Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton by several years, Leslie’s film anticipates later avant-garde interest in the limits of cinematic form.
The following is excerpted from a review of Lowell Blues that appeared in The Boston Herald, December 20, 2000:
Jack Kerouac’s prose has a melodious, rhythmic quality. Reading "Doctor Sax" or "On the Road," you can feel the beat of so many introspective days and searching nights.
In "Lowell Blues: The Words of Jack Kerouac," Gloucester filmmaker Henry Ferrini captures the vividness and musicality of Kerouac’s writing. Premiering tonight at 8:30 as an installment of WGBH’s "Greater Boston Arts," the half-hour documentary sets early chapters of Kerouac’s "Doctor Sax" to music, specifically the lilting alto sax of Lee Konitz, while also providing a stunning visual tour of Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell.
With voiceover readings by Beat writer Gregory Corso, Beat enthusiast Johnny Depp, poet Robert Creeley, David Amram, Joyce Johnson and Carolyn Cassady, wife of the late Neal Cassady, "Lowell Blues" succeeds in revealing Kerouac’s reverence and love for his birthplace. Walking in Kerouac’s shadow, Ferrini explores the majestic landmarks and obscure corners of Lowell, all of which had a profound effect on one of America’s most original and misunderstood modern writers.
Taking his cue from Kerouac, Ferrini presents Lowell as a tapestry of brick factories, wind-ravaged trees and rain-slicked streets. Through Ferrini’s lens, a gritty, blue-collar mill town is rendered achingly beautiful in the red-blue glow of the intense New England light. A nun strides purposefully down the street, her habit seemingly swaying to the beat of Konitz’s bluesy riffs. The Merrimac River pounds the rocks that line its banks as Kerouac’s words spill forth: "The thunderous husher of our sleep at night. I could hear it rise from the rocks in a groaning wush ululating with the water . . . By moonlight night I see the Mighty Merrimac foaming in a thousand white horses upon the tragic plains below."
Attempting to capture that fleeting moment when nonchalant youth gives way to intellectual self-awareness, a black-and-white photograph of a smiling Kerouac dressed in his high-school football uniform blends into an image of the Lowell Public Library where Kerouac discovered the writers who would exert an indelible influence on him: Goethe, Hugo and William Penn. " . . . I used to cut classes at least once a week, to play hooky that is, just so I could go to the Lowell Public Library and study by myself at leisure such things as old chess books with their fragrance of scholarly thought . . ."
Ferrini presents Kerouac not as a tragic figure or martyr of the Beats whose final bitter years were spent in an alcohol-induced oblivion, but as hopeful and in awe of the world around him. With "On the Road," which Kerouac wrote in 1951 (it was published in 1957), Kerouac became the Pied Piper to alienated youth. But "Doctor Sax," which Kerouac wrote in 1952 (published in 1959), presents a different portrait of the artist. It is an homage to nature and spirituality, and "Lowell Blues" is a sublime visual companion.
Bio of Henry Ferrini, director of Lowell Blues:
Henry Ferrini has worked on a number of acclaimed and prize-winning documentaries, many of them about historic Massachusetts communities. His film, WITCH CITY (1996), co-directed with Joe Cultrera, examined Salem’s modern-day relationship with its historic witch trials, featuring interviews with Wiccans, Christians and playwright Arthur Miller. Other films have included POEM IN ACTION, a portrait of his uncle Vincent Ferrini, the poet laureate of Gloucester, MA; RADIO FISHTOWN, the story of the last one-man radio station operator in the nation; and THE LIGHT, THE QUALITY, THE TIME, THE PLACE, a meditation on environmental responsibility in Gloucester. He also served as Director of Photography for LEATHER SOUL, a portrait of the tanning industry in Peabody, MA, which aired nationally on PBS.
Ferrini is presently developing a feature film based on a script written by himself and K.M. Riaf. KNOW FISH is a contemporary David versus Goliath parable, set in Gloucester against a backdrop of dwindling natural resources, greed and the forces of nature. It was a finalist in the Massachusetts Film Office’s Script writing Competition and the Nantucket Film Festival.
— Kevin Hagopian, Penn State University
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.