by Geoffrey Redick, producer
These days, it’s hard to imagine any piece of literature — let alone a poem — giving voice to a generation. And it’s quaint to think about the authorities putting that poem on trial for obscenity. Some prime time sitcoms and beer commercials are more obscene. “Howl” — the movie about the writing and publishing of the poem — is unlike any film I’ve seen. There are lots of big-name stars, but their dialog is entirely from trial transcripts and old interviews. Much of James Franco’s screen time as Allen Ginsberg is a long soliloquy about his influences and processes as a writer. Animation gives movement to the text of the poem, the images playing against the rthyms of the words. The result is an engaging exploration of the courage and honesty required to create art, and to weather the reactions, both positive and negative. Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are known for their award-winning documentaries, and they’ve created a hybrid here, a film that exists someplace between drama and verite.
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And perhaps it’s worth a visit to City Lights Booksellers, whose founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was the original publisher.