Howl (USA; 90 min.)

directed by: Ron Epstein; Jeffrey Friedman
starring: James Franco; David Stratheirn; Bob Balaban; Mary-Louise Parker; Jon Hamm; Alessandro Nivola; Jeff Daniels

Thom says: "There wasn't any reason to suppose that this wouldn't be a great film but since this was Epstein & Friedman's first dramatic film (although based on recorded events) I only plunged in because they have made quite a few 5 CATS documentary films: WORD IS OUT, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK, THE CELLULOID CLOSET, COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT so no way would I ignore it. I'm on a 2-week vacation (which is most likely the last vacation I'll ever take) & to pretend I was at a film festival by seeing a film in a theatre every day was one goal. This was day #1. The film is really a masterpiece combining a court trial designed to establish the obscenity of Allen Ginsberg's masterpiece Howl in a San Francisco court, Ginsberg's ongoing narration of his life and the trial, biographical scenes of Ginsberg in New York, his travels across the country with Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassidy, and his life in San Francisco where he met Peter Orlovsky, his life-time companion, & finally a stunning animation of the poem HOWL while being read by Ginsberg (Franco). Franco is really becoming a major star these days and through an unusually diverse range of films, and he is dynamite with this role. He deserves a nomination for certain. What the film really turns out to be about is the power of words in both prose and poetry. That anyone can be so upset or enthralled by the written word is truly of great import and the film magnificently proves its point. Kudos to the actors all around & the black and white photography is so outstanding that one forgets the color is missing after awhile. 5