New film howls artsy

Utilizing black and white filming, color filming and animation, “Howl” tells the story of a famous poem by Allen Ginsberg — played by James Franco — in three parts. Robert Epstein and Jeffery Friedman have written and directed this artistic and intelligent look into the events surrounding Allen Ginsberg’s publication of “Howl and Other Poems.” The film divides into three segments centering on Ginsberg’s experiences and inspirations.  One segment, a story told in black and white, that depicts Ginsberg’s past relationships with such Beat Generation giants as Neal Cassady (Jon Prescott), Peter Orlovsky (Aaron Tveit) and Jack Kerouac (Todd Rotondi).  In this segment, Ginsberg’s famous recitation of “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco is played out with realism and noir style. Franco portrays the confused and diffident Ginsberg living through the emotional trials that fueled his passion for poetry as he composed “Howl.”  The second mode, told in color, depicts the obscenity trial concerning the literary merit of “Howl and Other Poems” brought against his publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Andrew Rogers).  These scenes focus on Ferlinghetti’s defense attorney, Jake Ehrlich (Jon Hamm) and prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn). These are the most intellectually engaging parts of the movie, though for some these will be the most difficult scenes to sit through; this is where the issue of obscenity versus expression of the artist is deeply discussed and subsequently is the most meaningful dialogue of the film.  These scenes are terminologically heavy and for the English students among you these may come across as unwanted review of class work intermittent with your moments of escapism.  The third segment is a number of stylistically animated sequences by Monk Studios illustrating the recitation of “Howl” by Ginsberg.  I will put a bias disclaimer here that this is exactly the kind of out-of-place gimmick that I love — as some moviegoers love explosions, I love unexpected artistic risks in a film.  These sequences are very dynamic and well composed with an air of the “Fantasia”-esque, though some animation buffs may not agree with some of the CGI.  Though this film is not for everyone, it will guide willing audiences through the struggle of censorship, experts and a lifetime of Ginsberg’s romantic longing to find the true meaning of his poem