Howl (BLU-RAY)


On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Running Time: 
84 Minutes

What is Howl? Aside from it being one of the better known published works of Allen Ginsburg and of the “Beat Generation”, which sparked controversy and led to publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti to be jailed before both Howl and Ferlinghetti were cleared by law. Howl is also a film, an artistic one, that plays on the colorfulness of the present, the shady black and white memories of flashback, and the harsh mutation of colors during times of discomfort. It’s a swirl of living art, and color, and shapes, and stories of personal and societal renditions masked as entertainment to be decoded by whatever mechanisms you possess to unlock understanding. Its not for everyone, yet for anyone.

Howl comes at you in tiers. Discussions with Ginsberg (James Franco) happen in high clarity, proper color, and well detailed visuals. From the tiny hairs on Ginsberg’s beard to the sharpness of inanimate objects on desks and cabinets detail is acute and present. During the animated sequences color is rich and all levels manage to hold the purity of the HD picture. Flashbacks, which come at you in black and white, suffer a bit. White levels are a little off and video noise is slightly present. Court scenes are probably the less surreal. Wide out shots suffer from a blur in color and detail. Close up shots, for example of Gail Potter (Mary Louise-Parker), manage to pull it all together providing a rich colorful pallet, proper skin pigmentation, and a higher quality of detail. Of course all of this seems to be on purpose as the film attempts to make statements with film texture and some picture flaws to provide you a state of mind for the time and place in which everything takes place. Beauty of it is that the film comes with both Blu-Ray and DVD, so if your not willing to be disappointed by the artistic aspect of the film and what the cinematography is trying to accomplish, you can always watch the DVD and assume its just older technology failing you. Either way I think it’s a fantastic balance. Audio oddly enough has some issue. The DTS HD-MA 5.1 fails terribly in the dialogue department. I practically had to turn my surround sound up to forty just to get a clear distinction of what Franco was saying during the interviews of Ginsberg. I used the PCM 2.0 and the problem was solved. Dialogue balanced out to give me the full proper sound.

~BD and DVD versions
~Audio Commentary with James Franco in conversation with directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.
~Holy! Holy! Holy!: The Making of Howl - A 40 minute featurette that covers everything from the making of, animation, cinematography, and location plus more. Really the nuts and bolts of the special features.
~Director’s Research Tapes - Interviews with Ginsberg’s close friends and collaborators.
~Allen Ginsberg Reads At The Knitting Factory: Howl (1956), Sunflower Sutra (1955), Pull My Daisy (late 1940’s).
~James Franco Reads Howl (Audio Only)
~Provincetown Festival Q&A with directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and Cameron Mitchell.  


AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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