Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I saw the best exposition of a poem in a major motion picture, Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl, coming to art theaters starting on the 24th & also, I believe, available thru various video-on-demand services. Howl is also perhaps the only major motion picture I’ve ever seen that is, in both form & function, the close reading of a text. I have never seen a film based on a work of literature that even remotely approached Howl’s devotion to the words on the paper. If you’re a writer, or care about poetry, you are almost certainly going to love this film. Howl was made for you, with intelligence & more than a little cinematic bravery, and it shows. Howl is a wonderful motion picture.
It is a lot harder, however, to imagine Howl appealing to a broad audience. Virtually every word in this film comes directly from the poem itself – maybe one third of its 90 minutes are given over to a pastiche of different readings that start with the film’s first words, James Franco as Ginsberg reading the title and dedication at the Six Gallery in 1955, then launching into a surprisingly soft [and quite effective] presentation of its famous opening words
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked
– or from interviews with Ginsberg or the records of the 1957 obscenity trial in San Francisco’s municipal court, Judge Clayton Horn presiding. This makes for a very curious film dynamic – terrific for opening the poem up, maybe not so well suited to holding the attention of Borat fans. Actors portraying Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, Peter Orlovsky & Lawrence Ferlinghetti are on screen a lot, but not one has a single line in this film. The closest we get is Ginsberg reading Cassidy’s “Dear John” letter explaining that the Adonis of Denver really does want to be straight. Other major figures – the other poets at the Six Gallery or other witnesses in defense of the poem, which included Kenneth Rexroth, Mark Linenthal, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Herbert Blau, Arthur Foff & Vincent McHugh – are missing from the film entirely.
This push-pull between complete erasure & obsessive detailing is a fundamental (albeit strange) dynamic of this project. We learn, for example, which colleges the prosecution witnesses worked at, or hear William Burroughs & Herbert Huncke mentioned by their surnames because they’re in the poem, tho otherwise never present in the picture, Lucien Carr only by his first name for the same reason, yet Shigeyoshi Murau, who was actually arrested & spent the night in jail for selling a copy of the book to the police, is entirely absent. He was the co-defendant. And perhaps most strangely, given that Epstein & Friedman are San Franciscans, or that Ginsberg wrote the poem at Peter Orlovsky’s apartment at 5 Turner Terrace atop Potrero Hill or that the trial was a San Francisco affair, Howl was filmed entirely in New York.
Except for that portion that was done in Thailand. A major component of the film is a series of animations created by a team led by Eric Drooker to illustrate those aspects of the poem that are too abstract (Moloch!) or too literal perhaps in their presentation of matters physical (a child emerging from its mother’s vagina being the most explicit), often as sparkly spirits swoop overhead – these spirits are not so much elements of the poem (unless of course we imagine them as angel-headed hipsters) as they are aspects of forced narrative cohesion. There are some moments where I laughed out loud at animated clichés (my fave is a forest of undulating penises looking ever so much like seaweed), but the animation mostly solves one of the major cinematic challenges of this work – what to look at while listening to a poem.Read more »
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Leslie Scalapino leaves
a scholarship at Reed
The New Hybridity:
Thalia Field & Leslie Scalapino
3 videos for Leslie Scalapino
What is the state of American poetry?
Clayton Eshleman, Annie Finch,
moi & Danielle Pafunda
start the debate
Every literary magazine in Canada
Attention Span 2010
has just begun
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
BookThug’s Spring Launch 2010 Videos
Cara Benson interview
Cara Benson performs in a cave
A Cara Benson mélange
Labels: Cara Benson