Howl (2010) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 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.

  • Examining the poem "Howl" using only words from its obscenity trial, from an interview Allen Ginsberg gave then, and from the poem itself. The film intercuts a 1955 reading Ginsburg gives to an increasingly enthusiastic audience, the interview, scenes from his life described in the interview, surreal animation of segments of the poem, and scenes from the 1957 trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published "Howl" in 1956. Pivotal are his mother's mental illness and early death, friendship with Neal Cassady, struggles with homosexuality before embracing it, falling in love with Peter Orlovsky, and Ginsberg's take on the poem's theme - freedom of expression.

  • As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.


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