Tag Archives: allen ginsberg

Sundance Buzz: Howl

Having had its two stars, James Franco and Jon Hamm, compare the events surrounding Allen Ginsberg’s obscenity trial related to his poem of the same name of the film to the Proposition 8 battle in California, Howl arrives on the scene with a great deal of cache for the indie audience.

Neil Miller at Film School Rejects kicks off his review with what appears the central debate surrounding the film:

The interpretation of art is tricky. In fact, most great works of art are the trickiest because what makes them great is that they can mean different things to different people. This is something I’ve known, but was reinforced by Rob Epstein’s excellent film Howl, which is a commentary on interpretation set against the obscenity trial that catapulted Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem into the national spotlight. This is also something I realized in the peer conversations that followed my viewing of the film — if taken one way, Howl is a great film. If interpreted another, it loses all of its impact.

He goes on to argue that the film can be read either as an interpretation of the art itself or a meditation on interpretations of art. He also expresses great admiration for James Franco’s central performance, something echoed by MTV. Though this wasn’t something completely shared by Cinematical’s Kevin Kelly, who said that Franco “does a decent job in the role when he’s imitating Ginsberg via recordings, but veers off-track in fictionalized moments”.

Kelly also struggles to find as much enthusiasm as that expressed by Miller, arguing:

Interviews discussing the impact of HOWL, photos, recordings (a vintage recording of Ginsberg reading HOWL aloud was actually discovered in 2007), and more of a background would have been more interesting to watch than this unfortunately clumsy approach to adapting one of the quintessential American poems to film.

It’s scepticism is echoed by indieWire’s Eric Kohn, though he is perhaps even less kind:

Although Howl technically didn’t provide Sundance with its opening night film—it was one of two competition films screened on opening night—it reeks of the stigma associated with the aforementioned slot: Poorly executed, socially relevant counterculture fetishization executed with a few familiar faces. Ginsberg says he reached ‘complete control’ with his composition of Howl, but the movie version apparently has none.

At the moment, Howl looks like it could face a rocky road which may have to be driven by the buzz which seems to surround Franco’s performance. He’s getting praise, but the film itself is getting something of a muted response, with many noting that the two directors had originally envisioned the film as a documentary and have possibly become a little confused in their aims.

Sam’s Most Anticipated Films of 2010

Not ranked, but just sixteen movies I picked out for my enthusiasm to be aimed at this year. Just a note the following have been excluded for a variety of reasons: Kick Ass/Shutter Island (both coming out pretty soon), The Tree of Life (was on last year’s list and may still not come out this year), Inception/Toy Story 3 (too big to need my advocacy) and Scott Pilgrim vs The World (purely because Tommy was always going to choose it). Also, remember to check out Chris’ list here.

So, here are the sixteen I’ve chosen, in alphabetical order, after the jump:

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Round Up


Freida Pinto has joined Miral, the next film from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schabel.

Jon Hamm has joined the cast of the James Franco-starring Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl.

Bryan Singer is considering an adaptation of Freedom Formula, the Radical Comics series.

Someone, somewhere, is planning to make a biopic of the very-recently-decased reality television star Jade Goody.

Cameron Diaz is in final negotiations to star in Swingles, some sort of rom-com about a woman who becomes a wingman to a guy and other stuff and blah blah blah.

Lasse Hallstrom is planning to make a sequel to his My Life as a Dog debut film.

Rival Ginsberg Projects Gets Cast


Strange how these things come in twos, isn’t it? Biopics of legendary authors in certain parts of their lives that is. As James Franco continues filming Howl, playing beat poet Allen Ginsberg, so another project has come about which will focus on Ginsberg and contemporaries, William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, during their youth together in New York. The project, titled Kill Your Darlings, will star Jesse Eisenberg as Ginsberg with Chris Evans also signed on.

The story however is less biopic than period piece, on the basis of this Variety article. Ben Whishaw will star in the play as Lucien Carr, the Columbia University students credited with introducing the aforementioned geniuses, and his part in the killing of David Kammerer, purportedly over an unwanted sexual advance from the former.

The linked-to article above from Cinema Blend notes that the story carries some interesting undertones, notably the accusations of institutional homophobia intoned by the sentence given to Carr, which could prove interesting to Hollywood in the post-Milk period and, in what I have predicted in the past, will be a time for movies to get interested in social issues once more without getting preachy and Oscar-baity, the new 70s in lazy shorthand. Anyway, both sound good and I look forward to more information on the projects.