Howl

“Who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,” celebrates counterculture guru Allen Ginsberg in his 1955 Beat Generation epic poem, “Howl.” That and other sentiments got his publisher, the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti, busted for obscenity in 1957. It all ended happily when, in a landmark decision, the judge proclaimed the poem of “redeeming social importance.”

Howl, the first fiction film from the award-winning documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet), earnestly deconstructs Ginsberg’s poem. There’s Ginsberg (James Franco) reading his poem, Ginsberg giving an interview about the poem, and the obscenity trial itself with Jon Hamm as the defense attorney and David Strathairn for the prosecution. Interspersed throughout is animation by graphic designer Eric Drooker that is literal to a fault: burning typewriters, naked people flying through the air when not copulating, skyscrapers silhouetted against burnt-orange skies.

The film, which was released in September after a circuit through the major film festivals, seems to have fallen through the cracks, and Franco’s been lauded for the adventurer/stoner 127 Hours instead of his incredibly handsome, young Ginsberg. The film still makes you want to read (or reread) the original, and make up your own mind about its literary merits. 7 p.m. December 28, 29 and 30, 2 p.m. December 31 and January 1, 5 p.m. January 2. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.
Tue., Dec. 28, 7 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 29, 7 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 30, 7 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 31, 2 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 1, 2 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 2, 5 p.m., 2010

 
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