Tuesday, 11 October 2011


UK Release: 25th February 2011
Watched on Orange FilmToGo: Tuesday 11th October 2011
Rating: 15
Genre: Biography, Drama
Runtime: 1hr 24mins
Tagline: The Obscenity Trial That Started a Revolution. The Poem That Rocked a Generation.
IMDb Plot Summary: It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture.

My Review: Hate poetry? Maybe give this film a miss...
Howl is one long poem, visualised self-consciously in an art-house style which is generally immersive. James Franck plays Allen Ginsberg, reciting his poetry and talking about his poetry whilst a court case on whether or not his book of poetry, Howl, should be banned. 
We are taken on a disjointed, part black and white, part colour journey through the poets life, inspiration and how his poetry came to be, in 1957, put on trial. My main problem with the film is the fractured pacing and unprogressive plot. I could form no real emotional connection with Allen the only fully fleshed character in the film, as his character hardly develops enough for me to care. The trial scenes with Jon Hamm and Bob Balaban were the most interesting portions of the film as I felt a movement in the plot. The rest was somewhat static, a photograph of the past shot beautifully in black and white and narrated by deep poetry, but it became a little boring after a while. I needed more development, more emotion. 
The animation that went a long with a lot of the poetry felt a little out of place. It almost felt like two films stuck together, one a portrait of a controversial poet, another an independent animation film. I felt more could be done to illustrate the poems in real time in Ginsberg’s real life. I felt only a glimpse of him; not sufficient at all. James Franco did a decent enough job - riveting and awkward at once, but it felt adequately real enough for me to continue watching. It didn’t fill me with inspiration as I was hoping it would. But it does make you think about literature and art and how subjective and introspective the world around us truly is.
Score: 6/10

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