Sunday, May 22, 2011

Something Obscene for Your Viewing Pleasure

Fans of independent publishing know the names Barney Rosset, Grove Press and Evergreen Review.  Part pornography, part poetry, part politics, these publishing venues and the man behind them were at the forefront of the anti-censorship movement for some time before it all went to hell.  There were wiretaps, court cases, bombings, financial hardships and failed relationships along the way, but Rosset stood tall and tried to rise above.  He was a man with a mission, and that mission was to bring the works he enjoyed into the public eye. 

 Obscene is a documentary that takes Rosset from boyhood to AARP status, and it doesn't flinch from any of the less-than-savory aspects of the publisher's life.  While he may be canonized as the man who brought Samuel Beckett to the forefront, he'll also be remembered as the man who wouldn't take a Jewish wife and was vocal about it.

Grove and Evergreen Review brought names like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Che Guevara and others into the culture, often with a fight.  If it wasn't for Rosset, however, we most likely wouldn't have some of those creators' later works (and nor we would have all those Guevara shirts).  Rosset, who fought hypocrisy every step of the way, thought it was important to get these names and works out there, and he was right.  This documentary proves it.

Watching this film is an education in censorship, civil disobedience and the methods our government will use to suppress dissenting opinion.  It may open some eyes, or may just serve as  little more than preaching to the choir.  Either way it is a fascinating, important film that documents a time in history that can't be replicated today as anything and everything is just a click away and the art of dissent is now nothing more than fodder for YouTube.  It's nice to have a film, however, to remind us of how we got here, for better or worse, in the first place.

Mandatory Obscene FTC Disclaimer: I did receive this film free for review purposes.  Clicking on a link in it may get me a small commission, which I shall use to purchase pornography.

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