When I’m in New York, my favorite thing above all other things is pounding the pavement and discovering new parts of the city to fall in love with, as well as try to harness the inspiration I always feel in doing so.
Another Favorite Thing To Do, especially after a day of pounding said pavement, is catch a film at the Angelika Film Center. We just don’t have movie houses like this at home, that show such a wide range of insightful flicks, so it’s always a treat to visit the Angelika.
I was delighted to find out that “Howl” was still playing at the theater, so we grabbed a large ginger ale and popcorn and settled in for the 9:45 p.m. show.
“Howl,” starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, centers around the obscenity trial Ginsberg faced after the publication his influential poem, “Howl and Other Poems.”
It was incredible.
It had so many layers; Franco’s Ginsberg giving insights into his own life and the poem; the trial, which involved the lawyers (played by the always fantastic John Hamm and David Strathairn) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Bookstore, who published the poem; some animated interpretations of the poem and finally, a black-and-white recreation of Ginsberg’s debut reading of “Howl” at the Six Gallery Reading in 1955.
I’ve always loved “Howl” and bought my copy at City Lights when I visited San Francisco in the early 2000s. I came home from the vacation, sat down and read the whole book out loud, marveling at its flow, its style, its everything.
I loved how the movie weaved in Ginsberg’s back story, his want to be loved, his tender friendship with Carl Solomon, his ties with Jack Kerouac (my all-time favorite writer) and Neal Cassady and the whole Beat vibe.
It was a stunning film, one I highly recommend to any film buff (the way it was shot is incredible), Beat buff or anyone who wants to be inspired, as I was.
Here’s something I wrote after catching the film and heading back onto the streets and subway:
On the streets they run,
speaking rapid-fire Spanish;
the Europeans walk three across;
the hipsters in their skinny jeans speak of Ginsberg and bands we’ve never heard of
under the skyscrapers of New York.