Howl

Howl

DVD - 2011
Average Rating:
15
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Allen Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless, electrifying, and controversial work of his career. Pushing the limits and challenging the mainstream, the passionate and provocative Howl and its publisher find themselves on trial for obscenity, with prosecutor Ralph McIntosh setting out to have the book banned, while defense attorney Jake Ehrlich fervently argues for freedom of speech and creative expression.

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a
AmyEighttrack
Jan 06, 2015

This puts many of the other films about the Beats to shame. Make sure you Don't... Miss... This One, if you're a fan.
Well, okay. I'm a big Ginsberg fan. I loved James Franco's portrayal/characterization. It's very believable, in a lot of ways. Even if, only because I wanted to believe it. Everything was well researched and thoughtfully put together.
It had a clear point of view about Ginsberg - I liked that. Maybe they gilded the lily, somewhat - but so what? Ginsberg stands up to it. He Deserves to be romanticized.

What comes through, though, is self assurance, belief in self, an inspired authority about writing, and a human quality.
If you're interested in writing, you'll want to see this. Listen to the commentary, too! Virtually every bit of dialogue was culled from interviews and court records.
Unbelievable! But it wasn't so long ago. Coming out of the McCarthy era and the repressed Fifties, the uproar and trial over the publication of Howl was a game-changing watershed in American law and free speech.

neris1960 Sep 26, 2014

As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.

akirstan Feb 23, 2014

Brilliant execution of cinematography,
animation and acting.

l
lalalady
Nov 07, 2013

Having been no fan of Ginsberg I was very pleased to discover the power of his writing - as spoken word, finding the readings the most memorable and affecting part of the movie. The courtroom scenes were an excellent lesson in the dangers of censorship and the successful application of law when it is paying attention to core values.

theorbys Sep 10, 2013

This is AnneDromeda's comment from May 16, 2011 below, and I agree with it and quote it: This movie is an accomplishment for which all involved should be proud. It follows the obscenity trial faced by Lawrence Ferlinghetti after publishing Ginsberg's *Howl*. Courtroom drama is fleshed out by inserting scenes in which Ginsberg explains his inspirations (including flashbacks to critical life events), and gives a reading of his poem. All of this is juxtaposed with vivid, visceral dream sequences (illustrated by Eric Drooker) providing a visual interpretation of the poem. The direction of this film is incredibly intricate, and very well done. The courtroom scenes and the scenes in which Ginsberg discusses his inspirations are shot to look as though they were captured using film and cameras contemporary to the obscenity trial. Flashbacks to Ginsberg's formative days are shot in grainy black and white, as are the scenes in which he gives what looks like his first reading of Howl. In contrast to the relatively lo-fi, analogue feel of the live action scenes, Eric Drooker's illustrated poem sequences hit the eye and the mind like a peyote trip. The animation is graceful, clean, surreal, incredibly vivid, and absolutely in keeping with Ginsberg's vision of love sanctifying the earthly and profane. The entire cast turns in strong performances, most notably James Franco, who improbably captures Ginsberg with such chemistry that it's hard to believe he didn't win awards. Mary Louise Parker, Jon Hamm and others also make notable, well-cast and well-acted appearances. Much of the true-life feel of the film's dialogue hails from its source - extensive court and interview transcripts were mined in the writing of the script. On the whole, this is an incredibly engrossing film.

r
Ron@Ottawa
Aug 31, 2013

Unless you enjoy poetry immensely or are a fan of Ginsberg, there is nothing for you in this docu-drama. I stayed with it for as long as I could endure - some 15 minutes - and gave up.

Froster Jul 28, 2013

Kudos to all for having attempted this: really the biography of a poem. Franco is excellent--a nuanced, un-showy performance that is an affectionate portrait and an homage to a truly ground-breaking figure. But, unfortunately, the poem is portrayed in the most prosaic way possible...in distressingly literal animation that never, ever gets off the ground. What finally comes through admirably, however, is Ginsberg's honesty, if not his gifts. In fact, the poem itself seems mired in its time, and one is left thinking, "Hmm. If it weren't for all the fuss made over it, would anyone really even have noticed this poem? Would anyone still be reading it?" It's a sly, subversive point of view that the film-makers cleverly articulate during one of the trial scenes. Well done, guys.

jmmason Oct 09, 2012

Not bad "actual wordage" bio-pic of 50's poet Alan Ginsberg. James Franco (an acquired taste in my opinion) is too attractive to play the ugly Beat poet. I wonder if Jack Kerouac had been ugly if anybody would remember him.

kevfarley Apr 25, 2012

A worthy cultural historical
document. I fast forwarded some of it , and prefered the included "bonus" of Ginsburg actually reading "Howl", to the artsy animated version. The censorship trial is amazing,.. and the quotations totally accurate!! Hard to believe how up-tight the laws were then !!

m
Monolith
Feb 26, 2012

"...WHO rambles on incessantly overusing the pronoun WHO..." I guess I am in the minority. I was curious about this film. I am no longer. I found it monotonous and dull. Two and a half stars for the animation.

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