Howl may may work best for English teachers. It has arrived to remind us why we went into the business of teaching literature.
Howl is a brief (86 mins), straightforward (all the dialogue is from the people being played) chronicle about how a long, Whitman-like poem became a shot heard round the world: the authorities in San Francisco tried to ban it on grounds of obscenity.
That said, the poem Howl is also a rolling and tumbling masterwork.
James Franco seems perfect as the 1955 Ginsberg. But the 2010 Howl is buggered by lengthy animated sequences. They are entirely literal-minded explanations of the reading; they spiral about in a contemporary CGI style. This miscalculation almost screws the movie.
But the paean to the life of outsiders and to the poetic spirit rises above this painful imposition. To artists and liberals, Howl is a beloved work. To the young, the spoken imagery of Howl will be a worthy discovery.
And I vow that that the poem, which begins "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix," stands the test of time.
It shows through Jan 6, says RFC.org.