I cannot wait to see Howl, a film about the obscenity trial that Allen Ginsberg endured after the publication of his seminal poem “Howl”. The movie stars James Franco as Ginsberg and Jon Hamm as Jake Ehrlich, his defense attorney. Jeff Daniels, Mary Louise Parker and David Strathairn also star and the movie will be released here in October 2010.
James Franco definitely holds a special place in my heart. I adored him in Freaks and Geeks and I admire the fact that despite a successful acting career he still places a huge importance on education. He received his degree in English from UCLA and attended graduate school at Columbia’s MFA Writing Program and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where he studied filmmaking. This year he has been accepted to Yale’s Ph.D. program in English which he intends to start in September. Mr. Franco is obviously far more than just a pretty face, but still, it is a very pretty face!
The members of the Beat Generation are certainly fascinating subjects for cinema. A few movies have been made about them, most recently Beat released in 2000 starring Courtney Love as Joan Vollmer and Keifer Sutherland as William Burroughs, and The Last Time I Committed Suicide starring Thomas Jane as Neal Cassady and based on a letter Cassady wrote to Jack Kerouac. Hopefully Howl will remain faithful to Ginsberg’s spirit but I think Franco in the title role bodes well.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Howl, Naked Lunch and the performances of Lenny Bruce were all the subject of obscenity trials and the outcomes contributed towards liberalizing the self-expression of American artists and redefining censorship in the late 20th century. Poet Michael McClure who was present at the first public reading of Howl said, “Ginsberg read on to the end of the poem, which left us standing in wonder, or cheering and wondering, but knowing at the deepest level that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America.”