Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: James Franco as Ginsberg in Howl

When Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was made into a movie and produced in 2010 they chose James Franco to play Ginsberg. Although they bare no overwhelming physical similarities, Franco graduated from UCLA with an English major and is currently at Yale getting his masters, so they both share a different passion for English. To my surprise, the movie adaptation of Howl did not go into the details of Ginsberg’s personal life, nor did it show him recite the entire poem. The movie focused on the obscenity trial and whether or not Howl was of any literary value and whether it was too perverse. Ginsberg himself was not involved with the trial because it was the publisher of City Light Books who was the one actually put on trial, even though he didn’t write "Howl," he simply supported it.

The movie jumped around from scenes of the trial, to an interview with Ginsberg, to shots of him typing out Howl on the typewriter, and then scenes of him reciting the poem at clubs. The court deemed that Howl did indeed have literary value, and that just because that some of the language was perverse and not accepted in society, it still was a valuable piece of work. Luckily for us, Howl continued to be published after the trial and continued to be one of the most notable poems written.

I also thought it was very exciting that we go to school in Berkeley, a place where Allen Ginsberg wrote parts of his poetry. I saw the movie at an old movie theater in college and that too gave the movie a more authentic feeling. All in all, the movie artistically provided an accurate portrayal of Howl and I personally believe James Franco did a good job acting as Ginsberg because he tapped into this literary person and the producers did not cast him as a sex symbol.


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