Howl

Film Review by Scott McKellar | 10 Jun 2011
  • GFF 2011: Howl
Film title: Howl
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm
Release date: 20 Jun
Certificate: 15

Allen Ginsberg was the fiery voice of a whole generation of disaffected American intellectuals and never more so than in his first published work, the poem Howl. Epstein and Friedman's quirky biopic of the same name weaves between an interview with Ginsberg, his early experiences with men and his publishers' subsequent trial for obscenity, interspersed with powerful and often beautiful animated sequences and spoken passages from the poem.

In a time of frigid social norms and artistic censorship, Ginsberg had the courage to say the unsayable. Key to the film's success is James Franco. One of the most interesting and gifted young actors working today, he relishes unconventional roles and attacks the part with gusto. As Ginsberg, he handles the relationships with Kerouac and Orlovsky sensitively, and continues to be one to watch. Howl serves as a well-crafted and accessible introduction to one of the 20th Century's greatest poets. Ultimately Ginsberg stood for truth above all in art and life. There's no better fight. [Scott McKellar]