Howl

"Extraordinary"

Howl Review


Oscar-winning documentarians Epstein and Friedman turn their skills to a narrative feature. Sort of. This is essentially a movie based on a poem, but it also tells a remarkable life story and grapples with hugely important issues.

Published in 1956, Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl launched the Beat Generation with its mix of soulful yearning and rage at injustice. When the publisher (Rogers) faces charges that the poem is obscene, Ginsberg (Franco) refuses to attend the trial in San Francisco. And after hearing the lawyers (Strathairn and Hamm) and witnesses (Parker, Daniels, Nivola and Williams), the judge (Balaban) rules in favour of both artistic expression and freedom of the press.

Instead of telling this as a straightforward courtroom drama, Epstein and Friedman weave the trial into the fabric of the poem itself, crosscutting back to New York where Ginsberg is being interviewed about his life and his work (the directors claim that 98% of the words in the film come from court records, letters and interviews). As Ginsberg speaks, we see past veents in striking black and white, including significant friendships with Jack Kerouac (Rotondi), Neal Cassady (Prescott) and Peter Orlovsky (Tveit).

These scenes are also echoed in the poem. And while Franco performs it as a dramatic monologue, as originally intended, the screen is also filled with animation. Designed by Eric Drooker, who worked with Ginsberg on Illuminated Poems, these sequences are visually stunning, blending a variety of animation styles in an impressionistic, moving way.

It also helps to have an actor like Franco fully inhabiting Ginsberg from the gravelly voiced interview to the stylised flashbacks. It's a complex performance that balances beat poetry with wry humour and political controversy. And as all of this is skilfully edited together, what emerges is a remarkable look both at the man and his work, and also what makes his work so important more than 50 years later.

More broadly, the film takes a provocative, meaningful look at censorship, while pointedly noting that Ginsberg was never promoting homosexuality, he was fighting for honesty and frankness. Although it was his sexuality that caused him to look into his own "holy" soul. This is fiercely original cinema worthy of one of the 20th century's most fiercely original artists.



Howl

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th August 2010

Box Office USA: $0.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $617 thousand

Budget: $30 thousand

Distributed by: Oscilloscope Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 38

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , , Elizabeth Redleaf, Christine K. Walker

Starring: as Allen Ginsberg, as Jake Ehrlich, as Gail Potter, as Mark Schorer, as Professor David Kirk, as Ralph McIntosh, as Luther Nichols, as Peter Orlovsky, as Judge Clayton Horn, as Himself, Sean Patrick Reilly as Six Gallery, Jon Prescott as Neal Cassady, Todd Rotondi as Jack Kerouac, Alex Emanuel as Six Gallery, Cecilia Foss as Beatnik Poet

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.