Howl (2010 film)

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Howl poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Written byRob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Produced byRob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Elizabeth Redleaf
Christine Walker
Gus Van Sant
Jawal Nga
StarringJames Franco
David Strathairn
Jon Hamm
Bob Balaban
Alessandro Nivola
Treat Williams
Jon Prescott
Aaron Tveit
Mary-Louise Parker
Jeff Daniels
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited byJake Pushinsky
Stan Webb (animation)
Music byCarter Burwell
Werc Werk Works
Distributed byOscilloscope Laboratories
Release dates
  • January 21, 2010 (2010-01-21) (Sundance)
  • September 24, 2010 (2010-09-24) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,183,258[1]

Howl is a 2010 American film which explores both the 1955 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. It also re-enacts Ginsberg's debut performance of "Howl" at the Six Gallery Reading on October 7, 1955 in black-and-white.[2] 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.[3] 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.[14] Animation was provided by Eric Drooker, a former street artist who had collaborated with Ginsberg on his final book of poetry, Illuminated Poems.[15]


Critical response[edit]

Howl received an overall approval rating of 63% from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "James Franco gives it his all as beat poet Allen Ginsberg, but Howl never develops enough of a focus to do his performance justice."[16] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 24 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars and stated that actor James Franco portrays Allen Ginsberg with "restraint and care."[18] 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."[19] 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."[20] 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".[21] 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."[22]


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".[23][24]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Howl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  2. ^ ‘Howl’ filmmakers talk youth culture, James Franco
  3. ^ The readings by the other four Six Gallery poets are not recreated in the film.
  4. ^ "Indie studio Werc Werk Works to produce 'Howl' with James Franco". Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  5. ^ "Catch him if you can: These are busy times for actor Aaron Tveit". Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "Jon Hamm puts on legal briefs for 'Howl'". Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  7. ^ "David Strathairn Interview". Retrieved May 5, 2009.
  8. ^ "Mary-Louise Parker joins the exceptional cast of 'Howl'". Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  9. ^ "Jon Hamm rounds out final all-star cast of 'Howl'". Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  10. ^ "Allen Ginsberg biopic, 'Howl', gets stellar cast and crew". Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  11. ^ "Howl In Postproduction". Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  12. ^ "James Franco's Allen Ginsberg @ 'Howl'--1st look". 9 June 2009. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  13. ^ "Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and activist, dies at 101". Politico.
  14. ^ McNary, Dave (February 19, 2009). "Werk Works to produce 'Howl'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  15. ^ D'Andrade, Hugh (Feb 1, 2011) Eric Drooker – The Art of Animating Howl
  16. ^ "Howl (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  17. ^ "Howl Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  18. ^ Ebert Film Review
  19. ^ Movie Review: Howl Is an Exhilarating Trip Back in Time
  20. ^ New York Times Film Review
  21. ^ "'Howl'(ing) at the SFF". Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2010.
  22. ^ San Francisco Chronicle Film Review
  23. ^ "Murao Is Missing: Bookseller Left Out of 'Howl' Movie". Archived from the original on 2010-10-09. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  24. ^ Not forgetting Shig
  25. ^ HOWL Awards

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]