Berlinale: HOWL

     |    Friday, der 12. February 2010

A poem and pages of trial transcripts that the ensuing obscenity trial engendered. The work in question is Allen Ginsberg’s searing HOWL, a milestone of modern American literature. Fascinating landmark, but is it good cinema? In Oscar winning documentarians Rob Epstein’s and Jeffrey Friedman’s able hands, the answer is emphatically yes.

Friedman and Epstein make their future debut with this smart and moving film, featuring a tour de force performance by James Franco as Ginsberg.

The film (in Competition) charts Ginsberg’s use of poetry as a means of self-discovery, that includes his homosexuality. Franco as Ginsberg recounts his experiences in 1950s New York bohemia, a hotbed of artistic activity, while the courts negotiate if what Ginsberg does will even be recognized as art.

Ginsberg’s poetic visions are beautifully conveyed CGI effects.