In Praise of James Franco

In 2010, James Franco gave two extraordinary, fearless performances. The first in Howl, a recreation of Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem, and the obscenity trial that followed. His embodiment of Mr. Ginsberg is notable for it’s subtlety and power as he delivers the poem at Six Gallery in San Francisco and through animated sequences that bring to life the various themes and images of the poem itself.

The second is in 127 Hours, which I’ve already written about on the blog.

Mr. Franco seems a cross to me of the sweetness and subtle embodiment of character that Jeff Bridges employs, and the intellectual curiosity and emotional depth that Sean Penn brings to his work.

As much as I loved Mr. Franco in 127 Hours, he is a revelation in Howl. The dexterity of his face, his hands and his eyes in an extended interview of him as Mr. Ginsberg throughout the film is something to see. There are no heightened scenes, no melodrama within Howl, just the recantation of the poem and the images of the times in which it was created. This movie made me sit up on the edge of my couch, which so few movies do these days.

It’s available on Apple TV or On Demand.


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