Never a good sign when a film that technically opened the Sundance Film Festival and subsequently played at Berlin is picked up a full four months after the fact. I haven’t seen Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film but from what I heard, the film poses as a challenge to the patrons who’ll end up seeing the film in theaters and might be a puzzle for the marketing department at Oscilloscope Laboratories who picked up the picture. The distributor plans a September 24th launch accompanied by a VOD release.
Based on Allen Ginsberg’s beatnik book of poetry Howl, this focuses on the obscenity trial launched to censor Ginsberg’s groundbreaking book-length poem. Among the real-life characters featured in the film are prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn), prosecution witness Professor David Kirk (Jeff Daniels), radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter (ML Parker) and literary critic and defense witness Luther Nichols (Nivola). This interweaves three stories: the unfolding of the landmark 1957 obscenity trial; an imaginative animated ride through the prophetic masterpiece; and a unique portrait of a man who found new ways to express himself, and in doing so, changed his own life and galvanized a generation. During the festival, James Franco was mentioned by some as a potential Oscar candidate for his take on Ginsberg.