Reviews of Howl
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I admit, I’m a total sucker for any film focussed on literature and the freedom of speech. I also admit that because of that I could be rating this film a bit high, but it is not without merit. This is the riveting story of one Allen Ginsberg and his little poem called “Howl”. The poem that ushered in a stronger acceptance of quote-unquote “vulgar” literature, and assured during our nations’ censor craze that freedom of speech would endure. The film, the screenplay, and the acting all give life to the trial in which these events unfold in an interesting and though-provoking way.
The film is edited between 3-4 different aspects of this case. In many movies this would become cluttered and make a mess of the story it was trying to portray. While this does happen from time to time in the film it recovers well in the end and it never allows those moments to become boring. It doesn’t hold anything back from this story which only works in advancing the plot because it shows the raw side of these characters in cases where another film would’ve covered up. It shows both sides of the trial in a way which makes the audience develop their own opinions. It’s a trial and lesson we should never forget as a free country.
Needless to say I loved it, and really could write a whole paper on the literary references and techniques used in the story which are immense.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Three stories. 1) Strathairn, puritanically uncomfortable with obscene language, doesn’t understand meaning or literary merit of Howl. Hamm defends publisher Ferlinghetti against those who say Howl is morally damaging. 2) Franco as Ginsberg is interviewed about his life, art, inspiration, and the value of his poems. Fascinating recreations of interviews show us risk taking artistic process and prophet Ginsberg. 3) Jazzy animation throughout juxtaposes man seeking to understand, confusing suppressive world, cocks, flying spirits, and Moloch to help audience appreciate literary merit and human understanding expressed in Howl!
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Simply put, Howl is a beautiful, compelling, and original film in my opinion. While it covers many topics, I found the overarching discussion is on the question what is poetry. Most of the film is an analysis of what is poetry and what makes good or bad poetry (or rather, is there such a thing as good or bad poetry). At the center of this discussion and this film is the Ginsberg poem “Howl.” Every moment of the film lives and breathes off of the poem. Every rhythm of the editing or the music or the plot is played to the beat of the poem. The reason the film is special is because it maintained this sort of rhythm. I can’t think of a single film where everything was in sync and simply so poetic. And when I call it poetic, I don’t refer to the philosophical musings or one-liners or profound speeches (although they are there); I refer to the way images, editing sequences, and transitions interact with the what’s going on.
Other important things of note:
James Franco is amazing in this role, nothing much to be said. Even if you don’t like the movie, you’ll probably still marvel at his performance and his reading of the poem throughout the film.
Another quality that makes the film so interesting is that it’s extremely documentary style. Most biopics (like Oliver Stone ones cough hate cough) really wind up showing the directors opinion of a person. Howl, being made by two men who have done only documentaries up to this point really let Ginsberg speak for himself. Every single line from his trial is verbatim from transcripts as are the interviews with Franco as Ginsberg in the film. Whether you like it or not, every image (including the animations) or beat of this film comes from Ginsberg’s works.
So in conclusion, I loved it and found it to be something very unique. I complete understand someone disliking it but I loved it and this is why.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.