You may not know this about me, but in high school I tried to memorize the entirety of “Howl.”
The version I printed out was six pages long, and I made it about a page and a half through, which isn’t bad for what is a essentially a series of unconnected, non-narrative paragraphs all starting with “Who.”
Anyway, they made a movie about this poem, though not about me reading it, and I thought it was a pretty good movie indeed!
Its a good movie partially because “Howl” is such a ball-rocking hellride of a fantastic poem. Like it just does not get old. It is always even better than the last time you thought about it. And in my mind, any 90-minute exegesis about a balls-rocking good time source material, featuring cartoons, gay poets, dramatizations, and an episode of “Law & Order,” is gonna turn out a good time.
And you had Allen Ginsberg just talking and feeling and telling us about his gay adventures with adorable counterculture revolutionaries, and everyone looked so soft and incredibly hip. And James Franco was great, really great, not least because they made him look like a Jewish schlub in a slightly tacky New York apartment.
The animations were sort of heavy-handed, and maybe a little silly, and they weren’t funny, which is a real problem because part of what’s so great about the poem is that its totally hysterical.
"who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia, "
Come on, that’s funny!
But nonetheless I liked the animations, if only to hear/see another interpretation of a text I had thought about a lot. There were moments where it was strange to hear this poem that I had spent weeks repeating to myself several years ago said in an entirely different cadence, but that can only be a good experience. And some of the animation was completely perfect, especially of Moloch, something I had never really been able to picture (I never really tried to memorize Part II).
And then there was this whole trial thing, too.
And Jon Hamm was there, so of course his side was going to win because if there’s one thing we’ve learned its that Don Draper always wins. And it was sort of nice to think about a time when there was a trial like this, the idea that a poem could be seen as obscene, instead of homework. And then I got started thinking about ideas of obscenity and offensiveness, so that was a nice little exercise in intellectualism for my Friday evening.
Which seems to be the purpose of the newly opened West End Cinema, where we saw it. I thought E St. was DC’s indie movie house, but apparently I did not realize that it is not indie enough, and that the middle-aged urban liberals (and also me!) need somewhere even artier to see their movies. I, for one, am super excited about the baking wars movie. Also their popcorn was great. West End Cinema – check it out!