A Howling Success – Resuscitating America’s greatest 20th Century poem in film

What a spectacular creation is Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s docu-drama “Howl,” and what a gorgeous mess. That’s quite befitting for the classic Whitman-esque sprawl of a poem, delivered first to a group of eager beatniks in a smoky coffeehouse one night in 1955. This electric evening is brought to life by an amazing performance by James Franco, who portrays author Allen Ginsberg.

Franco has played interesting characters in “Milk,” “Spider-Man 3” and “Pineapple Express,” but his Ginsberg is something else entirely, a creation from the inside out. He portrays the poet at several stages of his artistic genesis, most notably in conversation with an unseen interviewer during the obscenity trial at which the poem “Howl” and City Lights owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti were the center.

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