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Shout 2010: Reviews of ‘Howl’



James Franco stars as Allen Ginsberg in “Howl.”

Dissecting a landmark poem can be a tricky affair. Dissecting the poet, even moreso.

Birmingham ShoutSuch is the challenge of “Howl,” part biopic and part celebration of the poet of the same name by Allen Ginsberg. James Franco stars as the beat poet in a film that combines documentary footage, courtroom drama and even animated bits to illustrate the verses read aloud.

The film opens Birmingham Shout tonight.

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have won accolades from critics since the movie opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Intelligent and highly respectful of its central character and his titular landmark poem, “Howl” is an admirable if fundamentally academic exploration of the origins, impact, meaning and legacy of Allen Ginsberg’s signal work. It is also an intriguing hybrid of documentary, narrative and animated filmmaking.

The Hollywood Reporter:

This exhilaration one feels watching this absorbing genre-bender doesn’t mean the whole thing hangs together. It doesn’t. The fragmented approach means some pieces don’t fit, and you find yourself wishing for more of this and less of that.

Film School Rejects:

The performance from James Franco is off-the-charts good. He embodies Ginsberg in both a literal sense and a figurative sense. He locks down the unique cadence from Ginsberg’s tapes and also embodies the energy and booming enthusiasm that Ginsberg had for his art.


What matters about a work like “Howl” is not who wrote it but why it resonated in the time it was made, and why it still has meaning today. Great art transcends its creator. In this case, it also lays the foundation for a great film.


“Howl” isn’t always an easy movie, and you’ll feel queasy or slightly uncomfortable when Ginsberg ratchets up his verbal barrage on your senses. Like the jazz musicians Ginsberg’s poetry owed tempo to, this one hits all the right notes.

The movie will appear in limited theatrical release and cable on demand starting Friday. Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, Mary Louise Parker, David Strathaim and Bob Balaban also star.

“Howl” will screen at 7 tonight at WorkPlay.

Video: Four clips from “Howl.”

Video: “Howl” trailer


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2 Yips for “Shout 2010: Reviews of ‘Howl’”

  1. Wade on Birmingham » Shout 2010: Poetry in motion
    Thursday, September 23, 2010, 9:16 pm

    […] if (hours>12){ hours=hours-12 } if (hours==0) hours=12 if (minutes Sphere: Related Content Also see:Shout 2010: Reviews of ‘Howl’EXCLUSIVE: Shout 2010 — the lineupShout 2010: Semper why?The summer of “Best Worst […]

  2. Tweets that mention Wade on Birmingham » Shout 2010: Reviews of ‘Howl’ -- Topsy.com
    Friday, September 24, 2010, 12:15 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wade Kwon and Chance Shirley, FultondaleArts . FultondaleArts said: RT @WadeOnTweets: "Howl" (with James Franco) opens Bham Shout film fest tonight. What reviewers said: http://itswa.de/shout-howl #shout10 […]

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