Sunday, January 9, 2011
On cold Colorado nights this time of year, when I don't feel like leaving the warmth of my cozy little house, we catch up on all the movies we haven't had time to watch over the busy warmer months. This weekend I was excited to find the movie "Howl" show up in my mailbox as I had been wanting to see the film since it was released. The film had a very limited release in September and was only shown twice here in the Denver area. I unfortunately missed both occasions. "Howl" the movie presents the story of the poem Howl written by the American poet Allen Ginsberg in 1955. Extremely controversial for the time, Howl's vivid sexual imagery and language challenged contemporary views of literary merit. Shortly after its publication in 1956, Howl's publisher was arrested and charged with the distribution of obscene material. The movie "Howl" depicts the dramatic aspects of the ensuing trial that effectively set the standard for censorship laws for literature that remain to this day. The film also recounts an extensive interview with Ginsberg, played by James Franco, where he describes his life including his relationship to Beat heroes Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Franco's performance of the intellectual Ginsberg is exceptional, as he captures Ginsberg's unique ability to connect to his audience and the deep sadness that was so clear in most of his poetry. The most beautiful aspect of this film is the reading of the poem itself that was woven throughout the dramatic action and accompanied by the dazzling and provocative animations of Eric Drooker, who originally collaborated with Ginsberg on illustrating his poems during his life. Drooker's animation brings Howl to life and allows the viewer to experience this beloved literary work in a way that makes clear the message of Ginsberg, a message that has often been misunderstood. For those who have never read Ginsberg, he has a rooted connection to Denver and his experiences in Denver are mentioned throughout the movie. The film is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with a man who certainly had something to say about his generation and his country, and once you're acquainted I would recommend becoming very familiar with this brilliant American poet by picking up a copy of Howl and Other Poems.