A First Look at Howl
01.20.10 by REELZ
Howl takes the audience back to the birth of the counterculture with the beat poets of the 1950s, encapsulating the inter-generational conflicts of the time in a landmark obscenity trial over the Allen Ginsburg poem from which the movie gets its name. The movie, originally to be a documentary, mixes scenes of Ginsberg (James Franco) reading his signature poem with a dramatization of the trial, a legendary disappearing interview that Ginsberg gave to Time magazine, and some dreamy animation.
Although Howl did not end up being a documentary, filmmakers went to great lengths to recreate the atmosphere and the anxieties of the time, as cast members Franco, Jon Hamm (who should feel relatively at home in the '50s given his role as Don Draper in Mad Men), and Jeff Daniels explain in a series of on set video interviews.
Also released in conjunction with the movie's debut this week at Sundance is this set of four clips, starting off with an extended bit of Ginsberg's original incendiary poetry slam. Later, as a comic counterpoint, we get a scene in which a stiff establishment suit reads extracts from Ginsberg's work in the courtroom, pushing for some sort of meaning that makes sense in his world.