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Howl2010

  • 3.7
James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg, a poet, counter-culture adventurer and chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out-style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career, the poem HOWL. Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, HOWL is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich (Hamm) argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the passionate as a host of unusual witnesses (Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker, Treat Williams, Alesssandro Nivola) pit generation against generation and art against fear in front of conservative Judge Clayton Horn (Bob Balaban). HOWL is simultaneously a portrait of a renegade artist breaking down barriers to find love and redemption and an imaginative ride through a prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation and was heard around the world.

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"...does something that sounds simple until you consider how rarely it occurs in films of any kind. It takes a familiar, celebrated piece of writing and makes it come alive." - A.O. Scott, New York Times


2 members like this review

Franco channels Ginsberg amazingly. Very moving, however, I felt that the animation sequences detract from the power of Ginsberg's words. I closed my eyes during the animated sequences, and my mind produced images more profound and profane than the ones in the animation. I can get this same effect by reading Ginsberg's poetry and letting my mind make the pictures. Filming poetry is trickier than adapting a novel..

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Member Reviews (6)

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top reviewer

Franco channels Ginsberg amazingly. Very moving, however, I felt that the animation sequences detract from the power of Ginsberg's words. I closed my eyes during the animated sequences, and my mind produced images more profound and profane than the ones in the animation. I can get this same effect by reading Ginsberg's poetry and letting my mind make the pictures. Filming poetry is trickier than adapting a novel..

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

This movie proves that Allen Ginsberg was America's first post-modern man of the 20th century. He invented the whole idea of the poet as beat philosopher bohemian king.

As documentary reminder what Howl did for self-expression and freedom of style for the creative artist, nothing compares to the court scenes in this movie

As inspirational grasp of Ginsberg, the cartoon accompaniment is immensely helpful to bring his ideas to everybody.

This movie with superlative performances by all, whose script is really Ginsberg's life testimony, depicting through poetry, even through the obscenity trials at the Supreme Court, is such a gem.

I will watch this movie many times to remember him well and draw inspiration.

1 member likes this review
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This may be the first feature-length motion picture where the central protagonist is a poem. Allen Ginsberg is a bit of a secondary character here, a Prometheus who gives a grey post-war America a literary fire called "HOWL." We get some insight into the life and times of Ginsberg and his legendary pals, but first and foremost, this movie is about the creation of one of the great literary landmarks of the 20th Century. Some reviews on this site have criticized the use of animation that accompany certain passages of the poem. It is a clever innovation to fuse "Howl" with the visual medium of film, and an excellent way to introduce a new generations to the power of this amazing poem. English teachers take note: show "Howl" to your poetry classes and watch sparks fly.

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top reviewer

The good part about "Howl" is that the material is great. Allen Ginsberg is a captivating character that broke the limits of what was considered art at the time. Some of the philosophy of writing your soul and talking to your muse like you talk to your friends are important things to consider for a writer. The animation and production increases the value of the film, but the bad part is James Franco. He is like one of the kids that things he's cool in school, but you realize quickly that his coolness is him quoting much cooler people, that his originality is non-existent. He does not do a good job of making me feel like he is Ginsberg vs, James Franco doing a Ginsberg impression. Fortunately the material pulls this movie through Franco's inability to deliver it.

Good about relationships and importance of work, but silly

I actually really enjoyed the movie! Franco did a great job, love this poem.