Corso: The Last Beat - The Making of Corso, The Last Beat

The Making of Corso, The Last Beat

Gregory Corso who unlike his compatriot Allen Ginsberg, avoided publicity and promotion of the "Beat" label, refused all film and biography requests. Allen Ginsberg introduced Corso to filmmaker Gustave Reininger, and after a lengthy quiz on Gilgamesh, Heraclitus, and St. Clement of Alexandria, Corso decided to allow Reininger to make a film. Reininger had made feature films and created network television but had never attempted non-fiction. Corso proved a challenge. Ginsberg offered to rein in Corso, known for his boisterous and confrontational antics, however a month after Corso agreed, Ginsberg fell it and died precipitously. Corso, with the loss of his best friend and literary alter-ego, became nearly catatonic. Beat fans would accost him, saying "Hey, You're the Last Beat" (Burroughs died shortly after Ginsberg). Corso, angered would always shoot back, "Is that your myth or mine." Reininger considered returning his funding for the film, raised privately, as Corso was non-responsive. Reininger though had an inspiration to take Corso back to Europe, Paris in particular, where the Beats had emerged, working in a small rundown hotel on the Left Bank, on Rue Git Le Coeur. Corso named it "The Beat Hotel."

Once in Europe, Corso came alive and led Reininger and his film crew on a madcap tour of France, Italy and Greece. The film is shot in the verite style, without much exposition. Corso's street theater antics kept the film's serious tone light ironic. Corso's poetry is woven into the film, with different voices. Discussions are underway with Bob Dylan to read a Corso poem, "Destiny", and with Bono to read "At Oscar Wilde's Tomb."

From Paris, to Rome, to Florence, Delphi and Athens, Corso retraces the steps of him and Ginsberg and Burroughs as young self-proclaimed poets, (though unpublished.) In Venice, Corso muses about his mother who abandoned him, and Reininger proposed finding her grave in Italy. For a year, he quietly searched cemeteries, genealogical records and official documents. His search turned up nothing in Europe, and relentlessly Reininger considered that perhaps the story of his mother's return was a lie told by his father. The search resumed in America, where again from cemeteries, hospital records, church documents and anecdotal accounts, Reininger picked up the trail of the missing mother, which had gone cold 67 years ago. Relentlessly Reininger searched and found that she was not in Italy, and certainly not dead, but 85 and living all her life in Trenton, New Jersey as a waitress, married to a short order cook. Her abandoned son was a secret withheld from her husband and two children. Corso's on screen meeting with his mother had the potential to be explosive.

Corso, about a year thereafter, developed prostate cancer, and summoned Reininger to continue filming on his death bed. His last poker game bring great levity, a visit from Ethan Hawke, a lullaby from Patti Smith, and a final visit with his new-found mother mark the film's third act.

In addition to the film, Reininger commissioned a major bibliography of Corso's letter and holdings in various public and university libraries, conducted by Bill Morgan, the archivist for Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The goal of the Corso Project is to restore Corso to his literary place as one of America's premier poets and social revolutionaries.

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