Old beatniks may die, but it doesn't look like they'll fade away anytime soon. Nearly half a century since the Beat Generation's heyday, the artistic and philosophical legacy of the Beats remains a massive mother lode of countercultural inspiration. Chuck Workman's documentary "The Source" traces the birth of cool through a stream-of-consciousness collage of period footage, recent interviews and readings of some of the Beats' best-known works.

"The Source" (Japanese title: "Beatnik") is enormous in its reach. While primarily focusing on the trio of poet Allen Ginsberg and writers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, it touches on other leading lights (Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Michael McLure, Ken Kesey, etc.) as well as the salient cultural features of the time, from the Cold War through hot jazz. Cameos run the gamut from Jerry Garcia to J. Edgar Hoover, Dizzy Gillespie to Henry Rollins.

Much of the film's remit is to break through the various myths and media cliches of "beatniks" to present a vision of what the Beats were really about. Workman dredges up loads of period TV and film footage showing the derision with which the Beats were regarded, as stereotypical bongo-banging, black-bereted hipsters spouting nonsense like "cool, daddy-oh." Even the term "beatnik" was an epithet, a Russian-derived diminutive tarring the Beats as un-American (and hence, communist).