movie, about the poem Howl and it’s
connections to the life of its author and the still-ongoing debate
over free speech, was better than I expected. Mostly because the parts I
liked best weren’t discussed in any of the reviews I read or
There are three intertwined threads:
- James Franco reading a transcript of an interview Ginsberg
gave during the obscenity trial.
- An all-star cast performing the transcript of the obscenity
trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti for publishing Howl and
- James Franco reading Howl as voiceover to an
often marvelous animation of the poem.
It’s the last of those I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed the
DVD extra film of Ginsberg himself reading Howl and
a few other poems. He wasn’t a professional actor, and he
couldn’t get through something as long as Howl
without making mistakes. (Franco probably needed retakes, too.)
But he had the rhythms of the poem in his head in a way that
Franco wasn’t even trying to. If you like the poem at all, I
think you’ll want to hear both versions.