One of the things I like about Chaiflicks is that I get to discover earlier films that didn’t get a lot of distribution. The most recent one was “Howl” – which uses the 1956 trial against poet/ bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s book of poems titled “Howl” as the centerpiece. The film, released in 2010, is a partial biography of Ginsberg – as it jumps between the trial and Ginsberg being interviewed by a reporter (or maybe magazine journalist). But, like Ginsberg’s writings (and what some call his “singing”) this is no ordinary historical drama. There is a lot of creative animation used to illustrate Ginsberg’s spoken words (he is talking to a reel-to-reel tape recorder. There were two teams of animators (in the US and Thailand).
The cast is an “A List” of actors. James Franco (who played two separate brother in HBO’s “The Deuce”) is Ginsberg at various stages of his life. Treat Williams (who I first remember from the film version of “Hair”) plays writer Mark Schorer. And David Statherian is the prosecutor at the trial. There is a bit of actual footage of Ginsberg near the end.
Did I LOVE the film? Not fully. I got lost a few times in listening to the poetry. But I was impressed by Franco and the animation and I did learn more than I knew before about Ginsberg. And it was 90 minutes worth watching. If you remember the trial (I do) or, especially if you are a fan of Ginsberg, you’ll want to see it.
Yes Ginsberg was Jewish (and his other well-known poem is titled “Kaddish”) but that’s the only thing “Jewish” in the film. But, if it wasn’t offered on Chaiflicks, -and promoted as “New to Chaiflicks”, I might have missed it.