Monday, March 29, 2010

Reel People: James Franco is Allen Ginsberg

The film is Howl, which is written and directed by the team of double documentary Oscar winner Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

Allen Ginsberg

When Allen Ginsberg was born in 1926 to a Jewish school teacher father and communist mother in New Jersey it was a different time then the era he would later influence.

Ginsberg was influenced from his father's poetry and some of the unique experiences from his mother Naomi going to therapy for mental illness and as a result, and a high level of social concern.

In 1943 Ginsberg attended Montclair State College shortly before attending Columbia University on scholarship. Here at Columbia, he had the opportunity to meet beat poets including Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs.

In 1948 Ginsberg had an auditory hallucination in his Harlem apartment where he heard various portions of William Blake poetry, that became a defining moment of his life.

In 1954 Ginsberg was a part of the San Fransisco beat scene instead of New York, and here he met Peter Orlovsky, who had been drafted into the army during the Korean war but was transfer off the front by a psychiatrist to work as a medic in San Fransisco.

Ginsberg and Orlovsky fell in love and began a lifelong partnership in their openly homosexual relationship.

In 1955 Ginsberg stopped doing any sort of traditional work on the advice of his psychiatrist, and he focused strictly on poetry.

Allen Ginsberg had the opportunity to meet many of the famous beatniks of the era and established Beatitude a poetry magazine.

Artist Wally Hendrick approached Ginsberg about participating in a reading and October 7, 1955 an event "Six Poets at the Six Gallery" featured the reading of six poets: Phillip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, and Ginsberg. It was here that Ginsberg read "Howl." This is credited as Ginsberg's most famous and influential poem.

In 1957, Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky left San Fransisco and traveled the world primarily spending their time in Paris where they joined George Corso along with many poets in what was known as the Beat Hotel until it closed in 1962.

Ginsberg helped bridge a gap between the beatniks and the hippies in the 1960s as he traveled in Europe and the United States meeting, reading, and interacting with a variety of poets. Ginsberg also became interested in Buddhism and Khrishnaism at this time.

Ginsberg had gained a degree of fame that continued to grow as he continued to write and publish through out the rest of his career.

At the age of 70, Ginsberg died surrounded by friends as he died of Liver Cancer in New York.


The film Howl will feature performances by John Hamm, Mary-Louis Parker, Treat Williams, David Straitharn and Jeff Daniels.

New comers Todd Rotondi plays Jack Kereauk and Aaron Tveit plays Peter Orlovsky.

This film has been featured at Berlin International Film Festival and Sundance.

Will James Franco's portrayal of this famous and controversial poet earn him critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

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