Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Epstein
|Produced by||Rob Epstein
Gus Van Sant
|Written by||Rob Epstein
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Edited by||Jake Pushinsky
Stan Webb (animation)
Werc Werk Works
|Distributed by||Oscilloscope Laboratories|
|Running time||85 minutes|
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. 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. 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.
- James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, a central figure of the Beat Generation
- Aaron Tveit as Peter Orlovsky, fellow poet and Ginsberg's life partner for over forty years
- Jon Hamm as Jake Ehrlich, Ginsberg's prominent defense attorney, whose slogan was "Never plead guilty" and whose life inspired the TV series Perry Mason
- David Strathairn as Ralph McIntosh, prosecuting attorney
- Alessandro Nivola as Luther Nichols, literary critic/book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and defense witness
- Mary-Louise Parker as Gail Potter, radio personality and prosecution witness
- Bob Balaban as Judge Clayton W. Horn
- Jeff Daniels as Professor David Kirk
- Jon Prescott as Neal Cassady
- Treat Williams as Mark Schorer
- Todd Rotondi as Jack Kerouac
- Andrew Rogers as Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Principal photography of the film took place in New York City. Animation was provided by Eric Drooker, a former street artist who had collaborated with Ginsberg on his final book of poetry, Illuminated Poems.
Howl received an overall rating of 63% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes (64 fresh and 38 rotten reviews). On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 24 reviews, indicating "Generally Favorable" reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars and stated that actor James Franco portrays Allen Ginsberg with "restraint and care." 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... 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." 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." 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". 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."
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".
- Nominated: Berlin International Film Festival - Golden Berlin Bear
- Nominated: Sundance Film Festival - Grand Jury Prize
- Walter Van T. Clark, author prominently featured in newspaper clipping
- "Howl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- ‘Howl’ filmmakers talk youth culture, James Franco
- The readings by the other four Six Gallery poets are not recreated in the film.
- "Indie studio Werc Werk Works to produce 'Howl' with James Franco". MonstersAndCritics.com. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
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- "Mary-Louise Parker joins the exceptional cast of 'Howl'". FilmSchoolRejects.com. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
- "Jon Hamm rounds out final all-star cast of 'Howl'". WercWerkWorks.com. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
- "Allen Ginsberg biopic, 'Howl', gets stellar cast and crew". BuzzSugar.com. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
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- McNary, Dave (February 19, 2009). "Werk Works to produce 'Howl'". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved June 19, 2010.
- D'Andrade, Hugh (Feb 1, 2011) Eric Drooker – The Art of Animating Howl laughingsquid.com
- "Howl (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- "Howl reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- Ebert Film Review
- Movie Review: Howl Is an Exhilarating Trip Back in Time
- New York Times Film Review
- "'Howl'(ing) at the SFF". Blogs.ABC.net.au. Retrieved April 6, 2010.
- San Francisco Chronicle Film Review
- Murao Is Missing: Bookseller Left Out of ‘Howl’ Movie
- Not forgetting Shig
- Fish, Stanley. "Literary Criticism Comes to the Movies." New York Times, October 4, 2010.
- Kellogg, Carolyn. "Reading 'Howl' at 'Howl'." Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2010.
- McCracken, Kristin. "Film & Literature: HOWL." Huffington Post, September 30, 2010.
- Seltzer, Sarah. "Howls of Anger, and of Liberation." The Nation, September 29, 2010.