I watched Howl last night with a little bit of trepidation, as I had read Ginsberg, Borroughs and Kerouac obsessively in my early twenties and was afraid that this film would make that fascinating period of the Beat Generation too pretty, but it has to be said that this is a marvelous film about a period and moment of free thought in 1950s America that is tough to represent.
James Franco is definitely too handsome to be the awkward, buck-toothed Ginsberg, but he pulls it off well with his humanity and a convincing measure of beat-ness and Ginsberg himself, both of which he must have clearly researched at length. The actors playing Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady are no where near what I’d imagine these intense poet-buccaneers to be, but the mileau that the film sketches does draw one in.
The film is energetic and beautifully crafted – and it wonderfully reminds us of the power of poetry and importance of fighting for the freedom of expression. The court scenes are the typical trope of American films, but again, the book by Ginsberg really was on trial for obscenity, so why not break up the running-visualization of this epic poem with some courtroom drama. I highly recommend it.
*Plays this week at The Model
Thurs 8pm. Matinee Sat and Sun 3pm*