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Ghost Canyon

Barbara Rubin And The Exploding NY Underground
(Barbara Rubin, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsburg, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / Juno Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: Made when she was just 18 years old, Barbara Rubin's art-porn masterpiece Christmas On Earth (1963-65) shocked NYC's experimental film scene and inspired NYC's thriving underground.

For the next four years her filmmaking and irrepressible energy helped shatter artistic and sexist boundaries.

DVD Verdict: Barbara Rubin grew up in the Cambria Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York City. In the spring of 1963, she was hired by Jonas Mekas to work for the Film-Makers' Cooperative, a non-profit organization co-founded by several artists to distribute avant-garde films.

The cooperative was frequented by many notable artists, including Robert Frank, Allen Ginsberg, Salvador Dalí, Ron Rice, Jerry Jofen, Jack Smith, and Andy Warhol.

Rubin soon became indispensable to Mekas, organizing local and international events. "Her contributions are so many and different," Mekas said in 2003. "Her life story still has to be written because she was very, I think, important."

A mythical Zelig of the sixties, she introduced Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to the Kabbalah. But beyond shaping the spirit of the sixties, Barbara was seeking the deeper meaning of life.

After retiring to a farm with Allen Ginsberg, she shocked everyone by converting to Hasidic Judaism, marrying and moving to France to live an anonymous life.

Tragically, she died in 1980 after giving birth to her fifth child. For years, Jonas Mekas treasured all of Barbara's letters and films and cherished her memory.

Working with Mekas' footage, 'Barbara Rubin And The Exploding NY Underground' takes us inside the world and mind of Barbara Rubin; a woman who truly believed that film could change the world.

Indeed, critics have christened her The American Rimbaud, for the poetry of her work, the trajectory of her life, and her legacy.

This bold, enthusiastic documentary details the unsung yet important role played by Barbara Rubin in the 1960s artistic counterculture and provides an evocative portrait of a vibrant and mysterious artist.

Best known fort he aforementioned film entitled 'Christmas on Earth' (of which originally had a much more fruity and lewd title when it was first created!), it features masked and painted actors engaging in both gay and straight sex.

In fact, it is very much in the same spirit as Jack Smith’s 'Flaming Creatures' that was stopped in midstream by the cops in a raid on Bleecker Street Cinema in 1964.

As the story here unfolds, it reveals that just before the war in Vietnam generated a political radicalization, people like Rubin were oriented to the senior citizens of the beat generation.

Rubin was madly in love with Ginsberg and hoped one day to bear his children. As a gay man, he had other ideas.

Like many others, she became an activist after the war deepened but not an organizer. In the legendary protest at the Pentagon in 1967, she joined Shirley Clark, an underground filmmaker of major importance, and Fugs band member Tuli Kupferberg in civil disobedience that led to a week in jail.

As the sixties wore on, the possibilities for making a living as an underground artist faded and Rubin’s health declined, a function of both being poor and a heavy drug user.

Looking for an exit path from what was becoming a dead end, she drifted toward the Kabbalah, an ancient Jewish text that promised the kind of release from worldly temptations found in Eastern religion.

Some call her an angel and the Joan of Arc of the independent film world. Although there’s little doubt she made her mark as a filmmaker, apparently few of her films still exist.

She actually even developed a grandiose and strange plan for a follow up to 'Christmas on Earth,' based on Snow White that was to include a cast of major stars, musicians and luminaries — Marlon Brando, Herman’s Hermits, and Federico Fellini and other A-listers. Understandably, it never happened.

In closing, perhaps better remembered as a catalyst who brought together pop culture icons of her time, Rubin also championed controversial films made by her peers and stood ardently against censorship.

In short, she remained arm in arm with some of those who helped make the '60s the '60s. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

"Keep Singing: A Tribute to Jonas Mekas" Short