The Rabbit is anxious to see Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Allen Ginsberg film, Howl, which opens today in New York and San Francisco (over a thousand miles from either, I’ll no doubt have to wait for the Netflix release). Not meaning to sound like Popeye here, but animation fan that I am I’ll be especially anxious to see the animated sequences of the film which seem to have garnered high praise and some not so high. The film, starring James Franco as Ginsberg, centers on the obscenity trial that followed the City Lights’ publication of Howl and Other Poems in 1956. As a rabbit who thinks poetry is often lost in the personal and academic (reminder: “Howl” begins with the word “I”) and needs to address more social and political issues, I welcome any attention brought to a poet that revolutionized both.
Ginsberg’s stock, always high, has increased of late with the release of archivist Bill Morgan’s beat history The Typewriter Is Holy and a deluxe edition of Jerry Aronson’s 1994 documentary with several hours of added interviews. The recently closed exhibition of Ginsberg’s photos at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. brought out another facet of Ginsberg’s career: chronicler of the Beat movement. Ginsberg annotated many of his photographs. Like his poems, the annotations are revelatory.
But sometimes a photo is worth more than a thousand words. Ginsberg’s well-known photo of Jack Kerouac taken in 1964 is a lesson in the wages of freedom and a reminder that Kerouac, failed Buddhist, failed Transcendentalist and much-revered American novelist, lived a life that, at times, could be envied, but ended way too soon from the wages of alcoholism. Compare it to earlier photos from a decade before; the beautiful young man exhibiting joy and wonder or famously striking a romantic pose. How short was his life. How short, as Ginsberg pointed out in “Kaddish,” is ours.–Cabbage Rabbit
UPDATE: The mixed reviews of the movie seemed unanimous in their praise of James Franco. Then comes this….
UPDATE II: Stanley Fish explains why the movie is getting such mixed reviews. It’s celluloid literary criticism! No wonder movie critics find it boring. Fish himself seems to like it, for the very reason.