An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
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. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
"Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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Howl is a great poem; Howl is a weak movie. If you want to be talked at for 90 minutes, then maybe you'll find it edifying, but to be honest, I found that this film took some really interesting people, a really interesting moment and a really important poem and turned them into words, words, words. I would have liked the portions in which Ginsberg reads the poem at the Six Gallery because I think James Franco does a pretty good job of getting Ginsberg's voice and cadences down as well as his gestures and body language. Never been much of a fan of Franco, but he does a good job here of paying homage to Ginsberg. Still, I can't get past his pretty boy looks which don't work even for the young Ginsberg. Similarly, the crowd of beats at the poetry reading look like they just popped out of a frat party. They don't look "beat." The courtroom scenes were poor; I am a great admirer of David Strathairn, but he has very little to work with here while Jon Hamm does a fine imitation of a block of wood. Jeff Daniels is laughable as a caricature of academia. The interview sequences include a lot of good material, but there's too much of it to be absorbed and the whole thing comes across as very static. The animations provided a creative way to incorporate the poem, but they didn't really dazzle. Ginsberg was a very interesting man who deserves much better.
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