October 13, 2010

Howl

A wild ride through Allen Ginsberg's epic poem, and the obscenity trial which followed. The movie's dialogue is taken completely from three real world sources: the poem itself, read by Ginsberg in a coffeehouse and set to psychedelic animation, James Franco plays Ginsberg as he's interviewed in his apartment, where he tells some of his life story mixed with the making of the poem, and court transcripts brought to life by an all-star cast. I strongly recommend this movie to those who don't know the poem. The surreal animated imagery which accompanies the poem is mostly faithful to the imagery of the poem- it doesn't become too abstract. Another way of saying it is the animated imagery serves the words of the poem rather than serving itself, which is a good thing.
James Franco is terrific as the garrulous poet. He nails the intellectual stoner visionary vibe perfectly. The court scenes feel a bit like a wax museum; because we know that the dialog is taken exactly from the record, the performances feel a little wooden, but there's also a trippy time-travel "real people actually said these things" vibe too.
THEATER NOTES: The wife and I caught Howl at the West Newton Cinema, home of some of the most self-involved, overly entitled, obnoxious moviegoers ever. I've had some bad experiences there, but this was not one of them- we saw Howl on Screen 4 (capacity 96) on a midweek evening. We almost had the theater to ourselves, a rare occurrence indeed, but alas, one other couple joined us. Seeing a movie in an empty theater always makes me fantasize about being a millionaire with my own screening room- I want a little hand-held intercom, where I can phone up to the booth and have Murray spool up the flick for us, and ask Skip to send down some popcorn while you're at it?