It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and mind-expanding animation that echoes the startling originality of the poem itself. All three coalesce in a genre-bending hybrid that brilliantly captures a pivotal momentthe birth of a counterculture.
Franco does an amazing imitation of the iconic beat generation poet - over-emphatic voice and all. Altogether a very well done film, although the animation shown while clips of the poem were read undermined the whole thing. First off, audiences are cerebral enough to not need a literal depiction of Howl's content. Second, the animation itself was quite crude and poorly done. Franco's performance, and the dedication to authenticity (many of the scenes are based on famous photographs of Ginsberg) redeem any shortcomings of the animation, however.
Even for those who aren't familiar with Ginsberg or who aren't James Franco fanatics (though this is the best role of Franco's career), there's still a lot to gain from Howl. Howl looks compassionately at human nature and its feeble tendencies of shame, judgment and censorship. All of which Ginsberg learned to discard to become to the bold American icon he is today.
Howl is poetic,intelligent, beautiful and personal. Good enough for anyone with a pulse.
This multi-faceted dramatic presentation of the long poem,Howl and the fight against censorship gives James Franco the opportunity to expand his acting chops as the agonized,suffering 50's Beat Generation figure,Allen Ginsberg,who was a contemporary of Jack Kerouac(On the Road).The frenetic animation sequences go a long way in explaining the hidden meanings within the lines of the poem's structure.I liked this movie a lot!This is one of two great acting gigs this year by James Franco.He also delivers a peerless performance in Danny Boyle's 127 Days.