Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wholly Communion (1965)

Peter Whitehead's first independently produced film, won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Mannheim Documentary Film Festival 1966, and was shown at Film Festivals round the world. It was England's first cinema-verite documentary film - filmed with a silent Eclair camera - 'one of the audience' - at the legendary, spontaneous International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall, London, 11th June 1965 - 7000 people unexpectedly filled the hall to listen to Beat poets from America - making the event into the first major "Happening" , putting the underground and counter-culture firmly into the public eye - not letting it blink too often since. Allen Ginsberg, travelling pal of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, this time fresh back from Prague where he had been crowned "King of the May", started the proceedings by singing a Hindu mantra, accompanying himself with finger cymbals. Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched into a poem - "To Fuck is to Love Again" - and the evening - and England - was never the same again. Alexander Trocchi kept the police at bay and the events rolling. Gregory Corso read his poem "Mutation of the Spirit". Ernst Jandl read Sound Poems in German. English poets Michael Horovitz and Christopher Logue read calmly, but Harry Fainlight, reading a poem written on LSD, "The Spider" was interrupted by Dutch poet Simon Vinkenoog, high on mescalin, shouting out "Come man come" and Harry's attempts to carry on and read more and more poems are some of the highlights of the film. Not so much about poetry - but poets exposing themselves, reading to a public which can be sometimes hostile. Adrian Mitchell's poem "To Whom it May Concern" - a savage diatribe about the Vietnam War - brought the house down. Allen Ginsberg read a poem written by the Russian poet Andrei Vosnesensky - "New York Bird" - he was present but not allowed to read by his Embassy. Allen brought the evening to a close with a reading of two long poems - "The Change" and "Who be Kind To" - in which he wrote "Tonite let's all make love in London". While he was reading, a young girl danced - in a haze of pot smoke - oblivious of time and space and people - following the rhythm of the poetry as if it was music.

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