Genre: Drama, Biography
               Trial, poet, Berlinale 2010, Allen Ginsberg, Poetry, freedom of expression

The Beat (en) Generation

  His poem “Howl” was something of a wake up call for the awakening of Beat literature in the U.S. in the middle of the arch-conservative 1950s and made it clear that not everyone had fallen in the U.S. the American Dream. Allen Ginsberg’s poem was not only a clear signal that many young men who had been in World War II, had their efforts to process the experience and re-insert themselves seamlessly into society. It also caused a scandal and in 1956 for one of the sensational trial in the history of American literature of the 20th Century. In court, however, was not the young poet himself, who was at that time to a complete stranger, but his publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his City Lights Publishing. The charge was for obscenity and became a bitter fight for freedom of expression and freedom of art, which eventually prevailed after a long hard struggle.

But Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film, which bears the title of Ginsberg’s well-known poem, turns not only to those spectacular show trial, but is trying to work in different ways and levels to approach them. In addition to the sometimes absurd passages in court, arguing in which literary experts on how the value, especially the artistic, was calculated from literature, we see Ginsberg (James Franco), while reciting his poem in a basement dive where his speech again and again vociferous opinions of the audience is broken. In most cases, then kidnap it directly expressive animation sequences directly into the body text of the poem, they interpret and illustrate the work equally. And last of these multiple views of a period filled with contradictions, mock interview is supplemented by passages in which Ginsberg in 1957, an insight into his thinking and feeling, in his personal and artistic development, his homosexuality and provides information about the trauma and injuries, making it a mouthpiece of his generation did.

Epstein, who turned his documentary The Times of Harvey Milk is already another outsider in the American counterculture, working in the film by the same principles that could have been a documentary work on this issue can arise – what at the beginning of the film it becomes clear that he is like a documentarian his sources (namely the trial court records and interviews with Ginsberg) calls. Quasidokumentarisches reenactment and courtroom drama, time, Portrait and Poetry Interpretation, biopic, and a subtle reflection on the freedom of art: Howl tried many things to bring under one umbrella, thereby exerting sometimes torn by leaps and bounds like a patchwork quilt. On the other hand, this course fits perfectly for the feelings of the beatniks, without whose work the protest cultures like the hippies and the punks of later decades would not have simply been unthinkable. The animation sequences and the partial bit awkward-looking game from James Franco (especially during the scenes that show him in reciting) are certainly not everyone’s taste. Due to the massive and daring of the two company directors, a film grouped around a poem and its impact, but rather these are venial sins. Perhaps you have this film two, three or four times to see to appreciate him fully able. As an early morning entry into the next day of the Berlinale competition Howl was certainly more of a mouthful, so that the applause at the press screening was also more limited.

(Joachim Kurz)

Title: Howl Country of production: USA Year of production: 2010 Length: 90 (Min)

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