HowlPosted: September 14, 2011
The story is told on three reading levels: the trial, the rehabilitation of the young Allen Ginsberg (James Franco), and the poem itself, animated by some graphic Novelists, and Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker with his imaginary beat. The film recalls the amazing originality of the poem. The story of the trial is the narrative of the film, echoing themes still in vogue today: the definition of obscene, the limits of freedom of expression and the very nature of art.
The defense attorney is played by Jake Ehrlich (John Hamm), the ‘liberal lawyer’ of the stars. The prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn) is trying to prove that the work is obscene. The witnesses are an English teacher (Mary-Louise Parker), who considers the poem obscene, and a professor (Jeff Daniels) who has a clear idea about what is or is not well written . On the defense there are intellectuals who remember the cultural and artistic merits of the poem. The judge presiding over the hearing is Clayton Horn (Bob Balaban) who, at the end, delivers a surprisingly passionate sentence.
In an interview (that never shows more than the actor – the journalist is only the voice-over and he is never shown), punctuated by imaginative flashbacks, Ginsberg meditates on his creative process and the difficulties it has faced.
The poem, not always understandable, does reflect the rebellious spirit of the Beat Generation. The movie is shot like a simple documentary and tries to celebrate the life of a poet almost unknown to the younger generation, but fails to make him feel current.