Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

An Obscene Howl ??


I watched the movie Howl  today (by filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman). It’s about Allen Ginsberg, played by James Franco, and covers some extremely interesting points about the obscenity trial in 1957 (Ginsburg himself was not on trial; his publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had the honor of attending).

You can read the poem Howl  and ask yourself if this legal definition of obscenity applies: “…an act, utterance, or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency or lewdness.”

You can also checkout some biographical references and allusions in Howl

As one very decent review of the movie points out that the screenplay uses, “…the poetry of Howl and the prose of interviews and court trials surrounding it…”, I’m compelled to comment on how well the movie shows the relativity of a critic’s judgement.

Since we’re talking history and not fiction here, I can reveal that the poem was judged to be Not Obscene. But, even knowing that, there’s enough creativity in this film to make it a “must watch” :-)

Naturally, a high-profile court case could make any poem famous, whether it was of redeeming social value or not.

I do hope some of you have read Howl, or will read it, and give your opinions about its worthiness or lack thereof

I mentioned earlier about how well the movie shows the relativity of a critic’s judgement and, for me, that was the most captivating part of the movie, not the “obscene” parts.

If you’d like to read the trial transcripts of the literary witnesses try, Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression.

And, if you’d rather hear than read the poem, use this link of Allen Ginsberg, himself, reading Howl
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5 responses to “An Obscene Howl ??

  1. Simone Benedict July 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    “Howl” is one of my favorite poems, mostly for the maddening rhythm of it. I haven’t seen the movie and don’t recall the details of the trial so I’ll follow the link you provided. Thanks for bringing the movie to my attention. I know it’s one I’ll enjoy!

    Like

  2. matterspamer July 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for linking back to my review! Howl was a very interesting movie, and the poem speaks for itself. Obscenity debates are always fascinating, but especially this one.

    Like

  3. Alexander M Zoltai July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I never, ever would have guessed that, Simone

    Like

  4. Alexander M Zoltai July 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Hey!

    Thanks for noticing I linked to your review

    With a motto like, “where no movie gets a free pass”, one has to respect, and possibly agree with, your opinion :-)

    Like

  5. Pingback: “America” and “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg updated for the Occupation « Breezy Kiefair

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