City Lights Presents: BARNEY’S WALL

December 19 only

A searching probe of the psyche of bad-boy publisher and radical culture warrior Barney Rosset, who defied censors, smashed sexual taboos, and unleashed the Sixties counter-culture.

Director Sandy Gotham Meehan in conversation with City Lights’ Paul Yamazaki , actor Bill Irwin, and Zyzzyva’s Oscar Villalo, after the film.

Presented by City Lights. Co-presented by Litquake.

Barney’s Wall probes the psyche of literary bad-boy, Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset, whose legendary censorship battles smashed sexual taboos and blew open American culture and politics to let in avante-garde writers and thinkers. Grove Press and its in-house publication Evergreen Review introduced millions of young intellectuals to the hippest currents in literature, theater, film and revolutionary politics.

The playwright Samuel Beckett, left, and Barney Rosset in Paris in 1986. Photo credit: Bob Adelman.

Flamboyant, principled and provocative, Barney changed the cultural landscape of America. His defiant publication in the early 1960’s of D.H. Lawrence’s then-banned Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and William Burrough’s Naked Lunch landed him in costly First Amendment battles that led all the way to the Supreme Court. These relentless crusades broke the back of that era’s literary censorship laws, which were abolished in landmark decisions. Grove went on to publish now canonical, then avant-garde, authors ranging from Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet to the Beats and Malcolm X, and – after yet another First Amendment battle – to the distribution of the classic erotic film, “I Am Curious Yellow.” At his death in 2012, every major publication in America lauded Barney Rosset as one of the country’s most effective advocates of the right to read, publish and create without fear of intimidation, retribution or humiliation.

The film employs as a portal an unknown late-life 15’x12′ surreal collage-mural, painted by Barney in his late ’80’s in his NYC East Village loft.

Barney’s Wall documents the emotional power of the mural through the commentary of an eclectic cast of avant-garde writers, editors, artists, filmmakers, publishers, actors, musicians, and lifetime friends and family of Barney who were invited after his death by the filmmakers to freely ’riff’ upon his last masterpiece. The cast’s wildly imaginative, and frequently humorous interpretations and free associations are a celebration of the art of self-expression and an affirmation of Thoreau’s observation that it is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Directed and produced by Sandy Gotham Meehan and William Cole. 2017. 95min. DCP.



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