Friday, November 5, 2010
Why the new "Howl" movie is worth seeing, even if you know the poem and the story
Watched "Howl" last night, the movie that weaves the story of Allen Ginsberg's writing of the poem, the poem itself, and the obscenity trial that ensured its immortality in American culture. As biopics go, it artfully approached the art itself, by creating graphic-novelistic interpretations of the three-sectioned poem, interwoven in the interview and the trial scenes. No movie that I can think of--with the exception of "The Mystery of Picasso"--ever gives justice to the processes of art-making, since so much of it is not properly visual or representable. But this one, in avoiding that problem, captures well the heat that burns itself into art-making, and the afterburns that that art sometimes can make. I hope that it gives Ginsberg another life with the younger generation, to whom this movie is addressed.
I was most moved by the inclusion of Ginsberg's singing of "Father Death Blues" at the end of the movie, since it telescopes our view of the young Ginsberg (ah, the romanticizable Ginsberg!) to the Ginsberg that I knew--the elder statesman, still childlike, weirdly wise, post-stroke yet thoughtful and present as ever.