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Review: Howl

More of a whimper, really
By PETER KEOUGH  |  September 28, 2010
2.5 2.5 Stars


This meditation from documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman on what might be America's most famous poem succeeds more as a glimpse into a great artist's creative process than as a movie, though give it credit for ambition. Allen Ginsberg's breakthrough work vitalized the Beat movement and also spawned a landmark obscenity trial, and to cover all aspects of this literary event, the directors divide their film into four interweaving parts — perhaps reflecting (as someone smarter than I has suggested) the four parts of the poem. But only three parts do justice to the subject: the re-creation of the trial, a reading of the poem by Ginsberg (played in an uncanny incarnation by James Franco) to an assemblage of appreciative hipsters, and a re-enacted interview with the poet. The fourth part, an animated, literal interpretation of the poem that plays like a Beat Fantasia crossed with David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, is less of a howl than it is a whimper.

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  Topics: Reviews , Poetry, Allen Ginsberg, movie,  More more >
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