Watch Howl

"The Obscenity Trial That Started a Revolution. The Poem That Rocked a Generation."
  • R
  • 2010
  • 1 hr 25 min
  • 6.6  (13,320)
  • 63

Howl is a 2010 American biographical drama film directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. The film stars James Franco as the prominent poet Allen Ginsberg and depicts the controversial 1957 obscenity trial of Ginsberg's visionary poem "Howl." The movie is set in the late 1940s and early 1950s, during a time when homosexuality was still considered taboo in American society. Ginsberg comes to San Francisco, a city that is known for being more liberal and accepting of unconventional lifestyles. Franco portrays Ginsberg as a shy and somewhat awkward young man, who spends most of his time reading and writing poetry. He meets other poets like Jack Kerouac (played by Todd Rotondi) and Neal Cassady (played by Jon Prescott) who embrace a bohemian lifestyle, which includes experimenting with drugs, sex, and jazz music.

As Ginsberg develops his poetic voice, he finds himself drawn to explore themes of sexuality, social change, and personal identity. He starts work on "Howl," a long and complex poem that reflects the pain and beauty of the human experience. The film takes an experimental approach to depicting Ginsberg's creative process, alternating between scenes of Franco writing or reciting his poetry and animated sequences that bring the words to life in vivid, often surreal imagery.

The trial of "Howl" is the centerpiece of the movie's narrative, and it is fascinating to watch the events unfold. The poem itself is not explicitly erotic, but it contains language and imagery that certain groups deemed obscene and inappropriate. The trial becomes a battle between the defenders of free speech and the proponents of societal norms and values. The prosecution argues that the poem is obscene and likely to corrupt young minds, while the defense argues that the poem is a work of art and that Ginsberg has the right to express his ideas and emotions freely.

One of the strengths of the film is how it conveys the social and political climate of the time. It is a period of social and political upheaval, and the movie captures this effectively. The trial is not just about a single poem, but about the values and beliefs of a generation. The film does an excellent job of providing context to the trial, showing how it was part of a larger struggle for freedom and self-expression.

The performances in the film are uniformly excellent, especially James Franco's portrayal of Ginsberg. He captures the poet's eccentricity and sensitivity, making him a relatable and sympathetic figure. Todd Rotondi and Jon Prescott also give strong performances as Ginsberg's friends and fellow poets, bringing energy and humor to the movie.

Another notable aspect of the film is its cinematography. The filmmakers use a mix of styles, including black and white footage, color footage, and animation, to create a visually stunning experience. The animated sequences are particularly impressive, bringing Ginsberg's poetry to life in a way that is both imaginative and eerie.

Overall, Howl is a thought-provoking and visually striking film that offers an insightful look into the mind of a great poet and his struggle for artistic freedom. The film explores important themes such as censorship, freedom of speech, and the nature of creativity. It is a must-see for fans of Ginsberg's poetry or anyone interested in the artistic and societal movements of the mid-20th century.

Howl is a 2010 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 25 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.6 and a MetaScore of 63.

Where to Watch Howl
Howl is available to watch free on Peacock, Plex, Pluto TV and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at FuboTV, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Howl for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 25 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.6  (13,320)
  • Metascore