Saturday, October 23, 2010

Movie Recommendation: HOWL

Last night, somewhat through random good luck, James and I went to see a new movie called Howl, about Allen Ginsberg and the obscenity trial over his famous 1955 poem. The screenplay for this movie is entirely taken from transcripts of the court trial, interviews with Ginsberg, and the text of Howl, and the film cuts among those three different story strands, with the text portrayed through both a recreation of the first public reading of the poem and gorgeous animations illustrating its images and themes. James Franco plays Ginsberg in the interview and the reading; Jon Hamm, David Straithairn, Bob Balaban, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Daniels play various figures in the trial.

And it is just an immensely intelligent, passionate, and well-acted film. I felt as if I were getting to know Ginsberg, and came to really like his humility and honesty, through the interview bits (and I learned a lot about the Beat Generation besides); I fell in love with the poem, which I don't think I'd ever experienced in full before, through the reading and the animations (which have been collected into a graphic novel); and the trial portions coalesce into a splendid defense of a writer's right to speak in the language that comes naturally to him, and the importance of writerly freedom in expanding the boundaries of literary art. (I thought more than once of the #Speakloudly campaign.) As the poem is frank in its sexual language, so is the movie, and if that would make you uncomfortable, it's not for you; but for everyone else, and especially lovers of poetry and haters of censorship, very highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I had never read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" before now. All I can say is 'WOW'. Thanks for the heads up on the movie. (Hugs)Indigo