Howl (film)

File:Howl poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Produced by Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Elizabeth Redleaf
Christine Walker
Gus Van Sant
Jawal Nga
Written by Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Starring James Franco
David Strathairn
Jon Hamm
Bob Balaban
Alessandro Nivola
Treat Williams
Jon Prescott
Aaron Tveit
with Mary-Louise Parker
and Jeff Daniels
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Editing by Jake Pushinsky
Stan Webb (animation)
Studio Werc Werk Works
Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories[1]
Release date(s)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,183,258[2]

Howl is a 2010 American experimental film which explores both the Six Gallery debut and the 1957 obscenity trial of 20th-century American poet Allen Ginsberg's noted poem Howl. The film is written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and stars James Franco as Ginsberg.


Howl explores the life and works of 20th-century American poet, Allen Ginsberg. Constructed in a nonlinear fashion, the film juxtaposes historical events with a variety of cinematic techniques. It reconstructs the early life of Ginsberg during the 1940s and 1950s (as portrayed by James Franco). It also re-enacts Ginsberg's debut performance of "Howl" at the Six Gallery Reading on October 7, 1955 in black-and-white.[3] The reading was the first important public manifestation of the Beat Generation and helped to herald the West Coast literary revolution that became known as the San Francisco Renaissance.[4] In addition, parts of the poem are interpreted through animated sequences. Finally, these events are juxtaposed with color images of the 1957 obscenity trial of San Francisco poet and City Lights Bookstore co-founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was the first person to publish "Howl" in Howl and Other Poems.



Principal photography of the film took place in New York City.[16] Animation was provided by Eric Drooker, a former street artist who had collaborated with Ginsberg on his final book of poetry, Illuminated Poems.[17]


Critical response

As of April 3, 2011, Howl has received an overall rating of 62% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes (60 fresh and 37 rotten reviews).[18] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 24 reviews, indicating "Generally Favorable" reviews.[19]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars and stated that actor James Franco portrays Allen Ginsberg with "restraint and care."[20] David Edelstein of New York Magazine noted that "Since the Sundance opening of James Franco’s take on Allen Ginsberg in Howl, I’d heard the movie was howlingly bad — which makes me think that some of the best critical minds of my generation have been destroyed by cynicism. The film, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is an exhilarating tribute from one form (cinema) to another (poetry). It takes Ginsberg's momentous, paradigm-changing poem as its launching pad and landing place; its beginning, middle, and end. You could call it a deconstruction except that sounds too formal. It’s a celebration, an analysis, a critical essay, an ode."[21] A.O. Scott of the New York Times noted that "'Howl' is an exemplary work of literary criticism on film, explaining and contextualizing its source without deadening it."[22] Damien Magee of 702 ABC Sydney gave the film three and a half stars out of five and argued that "James Franco is, in a word, perfect" in the role of Ginsberg. Whilst Magee expressed misgivings about the film's tone, he insists that "there is more than enough that is truly great about Howl for me to recommend it highly".[23] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle found it to be a film of "passion and ambition" but also suggested that its "success is intermittent at best."[24]

Dismay has been expressed that a characterization of Shig Murao was left out of the film. According to his biographer, Patricia Wakida, Murao was "the one who was actually arrested by the San Francisco police for selling Howl and actually goes to jail. Ginsberg was in Tangier and Ferlinghetti was in Big Sur. Shig was the one who took the fall".[25][26]


See also


Further reading

  • New York Times, October 4, 2010.
  • Kellogg, Carolyn. "Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2010.
  • McCracken, Kristin. "Huffington Post, September 30, 2010.

External links

  • Werc Werk Works
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Metacritic
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Howls of Anger, and of Liberation - a review by The Nation
  • Venus Zine Reviews "Howl"

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