HOWL depicts the artistic process of 1950s-era homosexual poet Allen Ginsberg, and the trial he faced for the obscenity in his epic poem “Howl.”
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.
(RoRoRo, PCPCPC, HoHoHo, RHRHRH, LLL, V, SS, NN, AA, DD, MM) Very strong Romantic, politically correct, homosexual worldview with a historical revisionist attitude about the “oppression” and “repression” of the 1950s; about 50 obscenities and profanities, some in connection to describing homosexual acts; no depicted violence but some images threatening violence and discussion of a minor car accident with images of the wrecked car with its hood up; very strong, lewd homosexual references plus implied promiscuity and one scene in which two homosexual men are surprised to be interrupted while about to engage in oral sex; many shots of upper male nudity in a homosexual context, including homosexual men lying in bed together or posing seductively for each other, but only nude from waist up; alcohol use and drunkenness; constant smoking and brief references to drugs; and, dubious arguments in favor of obscenity in “art” are made to sound convincing and those opposed to obscenity are mocked slightly.
HOWL depicts the artistic process of 1950s-era homosexual poet Allen Ginsberg, and the trial he faced for the obscenity in his epic poem by the same name. The movie stars James Franco. As Ginsberg, he answers questions from an unseen documentary filmmaker. These scenes are interspersed with animated sequences depicting portions of the lewd poem, Ginsberg reading the poem before an appreciative crowd, and courtroom scenes of people arguing over the poem's artistic merit.
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.