“You feel a responsibility to get it right,” said actor James Franco regarding what it was like portraying one of his heroes, poet Allen Ginsberg, in the anticipated new film HOWL. The movie, which pays homage to Ginsberg’s epic poem, is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Thursday. (…)
James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg – poet, counter-culture adventurer and chronicler of the Beat Generation – who recounts in his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style 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 (David Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich (Jon Hamm) argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the fervently passionate as a host of unusual witnesses (Jeff Daniels, Mary Louise Parker, Treat Williams, Alessandro Nivola) pit generation against generation and art against fear in front of conservative Judge Clayton Horn (Bob Balaban).
The trial’s heated controversy and Ginsberg’s provocative memories are woven around “Howl” itself, its images of ecstasy and anguish, of desire, madness and wonder, brought to vivid, visceral life in a fever dream of inventive animation. Echoing the vastness and originality of Ginsberg’s poem, HOWL mashes up genres and rides wild emotions as it reveals all the ways a fearless work of art impacted its creator and the world.
Opening night at Sundance used to be the province of big crossover movies that linked the independent world and Hollywood. But the new festival director, John Cooper, is shaking things up. “I was inspired by this film,” he says. “It’s time to talk about art in America again, not just healthcare because art really can change everything. We owe so much to Ginsberg.” (…)
Allen Ginsberg at PennSound and the Electronic Poetry Center