“Up you go, little smoke!”
Though by no means a definitive work, the short film Pull My Daisy allows the viewer a glimpse into the world of some of the most well-known writers and artists of the Beat period of the 1940s and ‘50s (beatniks, as they were known to squares) and is the only narrative film to feature in the entire Beat oeuvre. Directed by photographer Robert Frank (his 1958 collection “The Americans” is a favourite of mine and a must for all ‘Yankophiles’) and the artist Alfred Leslie, the film takes its story from the third act of Jack Kerouac’s then unpublished play The Beat Generation and its title from a poem conceived by Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady in the late 1940s.
Featuring improvisatory narration by Kerouac and an all-encompassing aura of impetuousness, we witness such Beat stalwarts as Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso recreate an actual occurrence in the life of Cassady in which a dinner with a Bishop was crashed by Cassady’s kooky, bohemian friends. Leslie has stated that Pull My Daisy was intended to be part of triptych that would make up the time of a feature length film in order to be screened in theatres but, probably due to the cultural cachet of its stars and writer, the film became something bigger than intended.
Pull My Daisy definitely has a wonderful energy and a sense of fun and spontaneity can be found in every frame. As far as arthouse cinema goes it is a little wonky in parts but that does nothing to hinder one’s enjoyment of this little cinematic time capsule. It’s something special because it is one of a kind, a window into another time and place in which a collective of artists was at their zenith and on the verge of becoming legends in their respective fields. If you’re a fan of the Beats or even mid-century American culture why not take 30 minutes out of your day and revel in Pull My Daisy‘s charm? Sit back and enjoy the playfulness of its story and, of course, the wonderful freeform ramblings of Mr. Jack Kerouac.