August 27th, 2010



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Still of Mary-Louise Parker in HowlStill of David Strathairn and Jon Hamm in HowlStill of James Franco in HowlStill of David Strathairn and Jon Hamm in HowlHowlStill of James Franco and Aaron Tveit in Howl

As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6.6/10 (4,601 voted)

Critic's Score: 63/100

Director: Rob Epstein

Stars: James Franco, Todd Rotondi, Jon Prescott

It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture.

Writers: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

James Franco - Allen Ginsberg
Todd Rotondi - Jack Kerouac
Jon Prescott - Neal Cassady
Aaron Tveit - Peter Orlovsky
David Strathairn - Ralph McIntosh
Jon Hamm - Jake Ehrlich
Andrew Rogers - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Bob Balaban - Judge Clayton Horn
Mary-Louise Parker - Gail Potter
Heather Klar - Jack's Girlfriend
Kaydence Frank - Allen's Girlfriend (as Kadance Frank)
Treat Williams - Mark Schorer
Joe Toronto - Sailor
Johary Ramos - Hustler
Nancy Spence - Neal's Girlfriend

Taglines: The Obscenity Trial That Started a Revolution. The Poem That Rocked a Generation.


Official Website: Official site |

Release Date: 27 August 2010

Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA

Opening Weekend: $51,185 (USA) (26 September 2010) (6 Screens)

Gross: $617,334 (USA) (6 February 2011)

Technical Specs


Jake Ehrlich: The battle of censorship will not be finally settled by your honor's decision, but you will either add to liberal-educated thinking, or by your decision you will add fuel to the fire of ignorance. Let there be light. Let there be honesty. Let there be no running from non-existent destroyers of morals. Let there be honest understanding.

User Review

Mr. Ginsberg I love thee...

Rating: 9/10

Watched in June 2010 I've never read Howl or really have had much interest in Allen Ginsberg, but having seen this delight of a film, things have changed.

The film takes a look at several key moments in Ginsbergs life. In B&W we see Ginsberg recite his poem Howl: there are also insights into his friendships with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and his relationship with Peter Orlovsky. The reading of the poem is segmented throughout the film and in between these segments we see Ginsberg being interviewed, whilst we never see the interviewer, we do see Ginsberg talk about his life. The other main element is the trial of Howl, which was deemed obscene. All these aspects combine well and it never feels disjointed; they are nicely contrasted and offer great insights into the life of Ginsberg.

Add to this some wonderful animation that plays during much of the recital of Howl; it creates something of a reality to the poem and made it even more stunning and graphic and tragic and beautiful. The trial scenes are fascinating with the constant questioning by the prosecution as to what certain lines or words meant. And how wonderful the judge, who seemed to have made his decision well before the trial was over. Thank goodness for him.

James Franco plays Ginsberg and does so well, although he doesn't have too much to do, he is mostly either being interviewed or reciting; but it is in this he impresses, the passion, the intensity of the piece shines through: the ending of Howl, known as 'Footnote to Howl' is brilliantly spoken and I found it hugely emotional. The film has a slight doco feel to it at times, but it is otherwise an absorbing and wonderfully told account.


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