Friday, January 25, 2013

Harry Potter and the Beat Writers Murder.

Kill Your Darlings director John Krokidas.
I've got to give Daniel Radcliffe credit; he's not afraid to take some risks.  And those risks seem to pay off. He got naked on Broadway for Equus, a show I didn't see but which was critically acclaimed. I did see him for his debut in a Broadway musical starring as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Here at Sundance Radcliffe stars as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings directed by John Krokidas with a screenplay by Krokidas and Austin Bunn.

Strangely, it seems like much of my education about the Beat revolution has occurred through film and particularly Sundance movies.  In 2010 it was Howl (starring James Franco as Ginsberg) about the poem of the same name and the associated obscenity trial.  This year's episode takes us to Columbia University in 1944 where Ginsberg is a student along with Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). The three troublemakers along with Lucien Call (Dane DeHaan) invade New York City with the energy and intellectualism that will ultimately lead to the Beat revolution.  Their shenanigans ultimately result in the murder of David Kammerer (Michael C.  Hall) at the hands of Carr.  Depending on who you ask, Kammerer either stalked Carr from the time he was 14 years old or the two were involved in a strange friendship that may have included a sexual interest.

Krokidas with some of his creative team including co-writer
Austin Bunn (second from left) and editor Brian Kates.
There is a lot to like about this movie.  The story is strong and not something I think a lot of people know about.  The screenplay brings the story to life in a way the writers admitted is not always based on actual events.  But I think the writers' willingness to imagine what might have happened between the known facts makes the movie better.  The production design gives the film a beautiful, romanticized view of the 1940s and yet offers just enough darkness and chaos to suggest the beginnings of the Beat revolution.

But it's when many talents combine that this movie is at its best.  Take the moment when Carr stabs Kammerer to death.  The editing by Brian Kates is brilliant as we flash from the murder to scenes of Burroughs shooting up and Ginsberg having sex with a stranger who looks suspiciously like Carr. Krokidas's directing is bold and the acting is superb, particularly Radcliffe whose performance is real and raw.  Kill Your Darlings is a movie that unquestionably belongs at Sundance.

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