Sunday, 27 February 2011

Howl

This is an American film from 2010 that looks at the debut of the poet Allen Ginsberg and the 1957 obscenity of his poem, 'Howl'. James Franco -- who played in 127 Hours and the Spider-Man films plays Ginsberg.

I forgot he had played in 127 Hours. Unfortunately though, I couldn't stop thinking of him for his role in the Spider-Man films. So, I had to look James Franco up. I was extremely surprised.

"He's a very education-minded person. We used to laugh because in between takes he'd be reading The Iliad on set. We still haven't read The Iliad. It was a very difficult book. With him, it was always James Joyce or something."
 If only I had known, because I was biased against him -- but not for long, quite simply because this has to be the most interesting film I've seen released this year.

It's an extremely nonlinear flow: historical events, lots of cinematic techniques, Ginsberg's early life, the reading of Howl in beat poetry clubs, scenes shot in colour of the trial, and even lucid animation scenes as the poem is read. In premise alone, I found it fascinating: how the 2 directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (who I've never heard of) were going to translate a poem to the scene. Not a biopic, not a full-blown documentary, but the poem itself, and related events onto the screen.

The scenes of the reading of the poem were a massive success for me, and Franco reads them with such a great understanding and appreciation for the prose. Apparently these readings were such a vital impact for the Beat Generation, helping to revolutionise the West Coast literary circles.

After reading more about Franco, and realising he is an academic, with a love for literature, it makes sense that he played the lead role here -- and he did so perfectly. I bought the poem after seeing the film.

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