Howl is the brilliant and controversial poem written by Allen Ginsberg of the Beat Generation. The poem, written in 1955, was considered obscene for its time with the language and perverse notions composed in such a candid manner. The revolutionary poem, was published by printing house City Lights Books and consequently lead to the arrest of the company’s co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
The new film adaptation, directed by Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting and My Own Private Idaho), focuses on the release of the poem and the court hearing that followed. The feature takes a comical slant, mocking the conservative haters. Whilst flipping in and out the court scene and the early life of the poet, we witness animation infiltrating the screen to match the poetry reading of Ginsberg. The animation plays an important role illustrating the poem. A move which could have gone either way, but one which we feel adds an appropriate peculiarity to the picture.
James Franco does a fine job in the lead role as Ginsberg himself. His tone of speech in his poetry reading and passion for freedom were formidable. Although, we’re not too sure about the beard.
Facial hair aside, Franco is admirable as a poet, and the film lets us witness other Beat Generation writers, Jack Kerouac and Peter Orlovski, who flitter in and out of the film, adding to its credibility of the cultural phenomena that was.