Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm With You In Rockland

If you love poetry, or consider literature important, or consider art important, you should watch Howl. It's one of only a handful of talkies I've granted the full five stars on the Netflix, and to be clear, it's not because of the intrinsic merits of the Allen Ginsberg poem on which it is based, though I do find it a wildly evocative and probing poem. If this film did nothing but walk through a line-for-line reading of the poem, together with some exposition and illustration of the more difficult and obscure passages, that alone would be worth three stars, but it goes beyond.

The film manages to cover poetry's place in society, the relationship between artistic creation and biography, and no small swath of recent American social history, and it does all of this without ever departing from primary written sources -- interviews with Ginsberg and other principals, the text of "Howl," transcripts of the publisher's obscenity trial, and so on.

Highly recommended.

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