Directed By: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Riedman
Starring: James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, John Hamm, Jeff Daniels, Treat Williams
It’s San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist; society’s reaction (the obscenity trial); and mind-expanding animation that echoes the startling originality of the poem itself. All three coalesce in a genre-bending hybrid that brilliantly captures a pivotal moment—the birth of a counterculture.
This movie wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. I guess I was expecting a more formulaic biopic type film. It tells the story of Ginsberg in five different narratives. 1) Ginsberg being interviewed in his apartment, talking to the camera about his life experiences. 2) Ginsberg reading the poem to a group of people. 3) A voice over narration of Ginsberg reading the poem with a abstract form of animation to give the poem a visual aid. 4) Short accounts from moments in Ginsberg's life. 5) The obscenity trial that the poem sparked.
For me, the trial was most interesting aspect of the film. It’s was the basis of what the movie was about, what Ginsberg’s poem meant in a world of censorship, and how it helped pave the way for artistic freedom.
I was mostly looking forward to James Franco’s performance in the film, which doesn’t disappoint, he does a fantastic job bringing to life the poet Allen Ginsberg. All the other actors involved with the film did a fine job as well, but everyone's role in the film other than Franco's was very small.
This film is definitely not for everyone. This is a very strong art-house film, it was made for a very select group of people. If you are a die hard poetry fan, you enjoy Ginsberg’s work, or are into very abstract films, then you will probably like this film. If not, then it’s not for you.