Starring: James Franco, David
Straithairn, Jon Hamm,
Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff
Daniels, Treat Williams
Audience: Adults without discernment
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Executive Producer: Gus Van Sant, Miles Levy,
Producer: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman,
Elizabeth Redleaf, Christine
Writer: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Address Comments To:Adam Yauch
511 Canal Street, 5E
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 219-4029; Fax: (212) 219-9538
The movie stars James Franco as Ginsberg. As Ginsberg, he answers questions from an unseen documentary filmmaker. These scenes are interspersed with animated sequences depicting portions of the somewhat lewd poem and courtroom scenes of different parties arguing over the poem's artistic merit.
The lack of a conventional storyline renders this movie largely inert dramatically, although it does give a strong sense of the creative process employed by Ginsberg and his compatriots in the Beat poetry movement. Ginsberg is clearly depicted as homosexual, who is in love with some of his fellow writers, but the film handles this aspect with surprising discretion, only showing Ginsberg lying in bed with the other men, usually obviously wearing pants. The recited poem “Howl” does, however, feature many pro-homosexual lines and some lines depicting sexual perversion in direct fashion.
The movie also intersperses Ginsberg's writing process and the animated sequences with scenes of him reading the poem to an appreciative crowd of hipsters. It also has lengthy scenes of Ginsberg speaking to an unseen interviewer. There are obvious artistic ambitions here, but they most likely will only appeal to major fans of the Beat Generation’s work.
Lack of a conventional storyline renders HOWL largely inert dramatically. Even so, it does give a strong sense of the creative process employed by Ginsberg and his compatriots in the Beat poetry movement. Of course, the movie depicts Ginsberg as homosexual and sympathizes with him. Though not as explicit as it could have been, the movie contains many pro-homosexual lines from Ginsberg’s controversial poem and some lines depicting sexual perversion in direct fashion. It also sides with Ginsberg’s obscenity case. The Romantic, homosexual worldview of HOWL is abhorrent, as is the obscene language that the movie contains. HOWL likely will only appeal to small, specialized audiences fixated on the “Beat Generation” pop culture era of the 1950s.