Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Allen Ginsberg

Movies about Writers


The last movie I watched about a writer was Howl, the story of the legal battle over Allen Ginsberg‘s famous poem.

Movies about Writers

Image Courtesy of Alek von Felkerzam ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/pushbeyond-31466

As a writer, I think watching movies is an excellent way to absorb the craft of storytelling.

Even though the approaches differ in certain critical ways, you can “translate” between them.

In fact, the legendary director and producer, Francis Ford Coppola, said he preferred being inspired by reading short stories rather than movie scripts.

I found a copy of the Portland Press Herald with an article called Fraught with Peril: Making a Movie about Writers and Writing.

It focuses on a recent movie called Genius about Thomas Wolfe but also spotlights 10 other Writer-Movies.

I’ll list the movies here and leave it to you to check out the article for short blurbs about each (plus, a longer look at Genius…):

THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (1937)

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

THE FRONT (1976)

MY BRILLIANT CAREER (1979)

CROSS CREEK (1983)

BARTON FINK (1991)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)

WONDER BOYS (2000)

ADAPTATION (2002)

THE HOURS (2002)

If you’ve watched any of these, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your short (or, long) review :-)
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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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