Terminally Ambivalent Over Howl

We watched Howl last night, the feature film with John Hamm and James Franco about Allen Ginsberg’s controversial poem Howl.

It was okay. James Franco was a fairly convincing Ginsberg, and I thought his reading of Howl was pretty good though a fellow viewer felt it got off to a terrible start.

The movie was punctuated with animation illustrating the poem. The trouble with animating a poem, I realized as I watched, is that it takes a lot of interpretation to get to the point of turning a poem into images. Watching someone’s visual interpretation unfortunately detracts from one’s own experience of interpreting the poem.

The animation struck me as lacking a cohesive vision, though some parts were terribly beautiful and haunting. It was done by an animation house, and I felt that whoever was in charge of all the different animators was perhaps not providing strong enough leadership. The style kept morphing, and though that can be done well, in this case it really distracted from the overall experience. The animation of the poem would have been better as a prequel to the movie rather than being continually interrupted by live action.

On the bright side, the poem really got me appreciating one of my all-time favorite pieces of animation, the music video for Terminally Ambivalent Over You from the Real Tuesday Weld. Animated by Alex Budovsky whose work is continually inspiring, it is the perfect mix of awesome song and awesome animation.

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