DIRECTED BY ROB EPSTEIN & JEFFREY FRIEDMAN
STARRING: JAMES FRANCO, DAVID STRATHAIRN, ALESSANDRO NIVOLA, BOB BALABAN, JON HAMM, MARY-LOUISE PARKER, TREAT WILLIAMS, AARON TVELT AND JEFF DANIELS
‘Howl’ is the kind of film that makes you want to hear the opposition – the tone of the defence is so empowered and mighty with respect to your contemporary viewership that, perhaps out of pity or out of sheer curiosity, you want to hear what people could actually back their accusations upon when regarding contemporary literature and the acceptance (if not rejection) of the same. It’s like one can’t build something enough to beat the might of a new movement, one that not just reaches out for the masses but also endears, moves and has auditory intercourse with them, the perpetrator being a legend on the rise by the name of Allen Ginsberg (James Franco).
It’s easy playing Ginsberg, if you count the manner of speaking and the homosexual icing off. Agreeable that he isn’t the most celebrated, even in today’s cosmopolitan ambience where people had taken the pains to invent art out of profanity, vanity and insanity, and that’s not negative criticism on my part. But what hooked me in was the idea of a man of today stepping into yesterday’s shoes without a sign of being mortified about the very idea of it, if not shattered out of his senses and sentimentally regressive to be doing it in the first place. Yes, I speak for Ralph McIntosh, (David Strathairn) and more importantly for the actor himself, and in that context I was quite overwhelmed by his personal conviction that probably helmed the essaying of the role. But McIntosh definitely has to be enacted, for ‘to be lived’ is to be identified as alien – a Ginsberg equivalent in the world of now.
All said, James Franco does come up with a performance that helps grab a substantial chunk of the year’s acting potential, although the dimensions are in no way boggling. It’s neat, but not magnificent although it definitely was as lethargic as it’s meant to be, succinct with its depiction of superstardom and most importantly, a level of intensity that suggested that he was indeed having fun. The recitations are dynamite, animations repetitive, which, although helping enhance the psychedelic quotient, acts detrimental to the pace of the film that needs to be thankful to its sonorous backing track (not to mention the stirring score by Carter Burwell). But, with all its commendable thrusts of opinion and conventional standpoints on the idea of poetry, I would settle to view ‘Howl’ as a courtroom drama, a keyhole opening to distinctive reality that asserts itself with a failure to negate. Plus there’s wisdom, with Judge Clayton Horn contributing most of it – reminds me to look out for more of Bob Balaban.
A riveting drama that deconstructs dramatic acting to documentary proportions, thus making it far more endearing, ‘Howl’ necessitates itself with the viewer’s inclination to watch it, where it’s only clear that one’s decision to watch ‘Howl’ is not just an empowerment, but a guarantee to subsequent appreciation.
It’s 80 minutes of Jizz and Jazz juxtaposed. Work it if you've a feel for it.