Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Movie About a Poem...


Yes, we went and saw Howl last night at Palace Centro in the Valley for the Brisbane International Film Festival. It was a film about a poem, one of the most famous poems of last century by one of its greatest poets, Allen Ginsberg.

There are many, many reviews of this film: IMDB, Film Journal International, Current Movie Reviews, The Guardian, Film School Rejects, Rotten Tomatoes, Tiny Mixed Tapes, and Film.com to name just a few of the hundreds out there. I have also read a lot of the reviews posted The Allen Ginsberg Project blog.

What I take away from reading the reviews and seeing the film is how much people love Ginsberg and his poem and how much they didn't enjoy the animation within the film. The split narrative device utilised within the film enabled a whole reading of all parts of the poem, while cutting to a Ginsberg interview years later, as well as the obscenity trial that took place. We see the poem being read at the Five Spot Cafe and we see an animated version of much of the poem also.

Some reviewers loved the animation, but most didn't. There were other complaints about not seeing enough of other Beat writers etc. but I didn't feel that that was a problem given the narrow scope of the film. It wasn't clear that Ginsberg was actually in Paris when the trial was on and it wasn't clear when the tape recorded interview was taking place, but if you want to go and see a great documentary on Ginsberg then get hold of a copy of The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. It is fantastic and covers his life and career in detail.


It is great that a film has been made like this, a film about a poem and a great poet. A film that introduces the Beat Generation to other generation (especially outside of America) and that speaks of the power of art, imagination and performance. It is a film certainly worth seeing, wonderfully filmed, entertaining and thought provoking and who knows, you might even love the animated sequences!

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