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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Howl [Blu-ray]

 

(Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, 2010)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Warner

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:24:28.813

Disc Size: 38,450,680,663 bytes

Feature Size: 19,770,846,912 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.99 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Custom recyclable with slipcover Blu-ray case

Release date: January 4th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2793 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2793 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, French, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary with actor James Franco in conversation with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

'Holy! Holy! Holy!: The Making of Howl' 8-part documentary (40:00 -1080i)

• Director's Research Tapes - interviews with Ginsberg close friends and collaborators (5-part 28:33)

Allen Ginsberg reads reads Sunflower Sutra and Pull My Daisy at The Knitting Factory (3-part - 35:02 1080i)

• James Franco reads Howl (audio only - 3-parts + footnote - 25:00)

• Provincial Film Festival Q + A with directors Rob Epstein + Jeffrey Friedman, moderated by Cameron Mitchell (22:29 in HD!)

DVD copy included

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg – poet, counter-culture adventurer and chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career, the poem HOWL. Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, HOWL is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich (Hamm) argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the passionate as a host of unusual witnesses (Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker, Treat Williams, Alesssandro Nivola) pit generation against generation and art against fear in front of conservative Judge Clayton Horn (Bob Balaban).

HOWL is simultaneously a portrait of a renegade artist breaking down barriers to find love and redemption and an imaginative ride through a prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation and was heard around the world.

 

 

The Film: Young Allen Ginsberg recounts in his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style the road trips, love affairs and... search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career, the poem "Howl." Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, "Howl" is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while defense attorney Jake Ehrlich argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the fervently passionate. "Howl" mashes up genres and rides wild emotions as it reveals all the ways a fearless work of art impacted its creator and the world.

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Howl arrives on Blu-ray from Oscilloscope in a decent, if not always stellar image quality. Firstly, the film sports many stylistic appearances from simple black and white (which looks quite impressive) to color and then animation and vintage clips/stills. So quality is, predictably, all over the board - which isn't so bad by itself. The costume/art direction surely make people think of Mad Men (complete with Jon Hamm - in Don Draper's wardrobe from the series). But we've been spoiled with pristine digital animation in recent years and graphic artist Eric Drooker's segments don't seem transferred with the same dynamic quality. What may be more of an issue with some people is how they inappropriately mesh into the film itself. Contrast exhibits acceptable black levels and despite the varied visuals I don't think the transfer presentation deeply effects the film experience. This Blu-ray looks significantly stronger than SD and the image is not such an important aspect to appreciate 'Howl'. By modern standards this is fairly tame eye-candy but as a representation of the original - it is probably quite a satisfactory and authentic replication.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

We get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 2793 kbps. The film, however seems wasted on this mix as it is almost exclusively 'passively' dialogue driven with little to no separations and occasional scattered speech supporting the documentary vérité feel. Volume levels fluctuate a bit but overall the lossless audio exported the film's sound without issue. Predictably, this won't be a demo disc for your surround sound. There are optional English and French subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Supplements are the area where this package really shines. A lot of attention to detail has gone into these extras starting with a commentary with actor James Franco in conversation with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. The accumulation of Ginsberg material is discussed as are multiple production areas and Franco does a good job of moderating. Following that are over 2 hours of material including the 8-part, 40-minute documentary 'Holy! Holy! Holy!: The Making of Howl' examining the evolution to celluloid. We also get a peek at the Director's Research Tapes containing interviews with Ginsberg's close friends and collaborators. This is 5 parts and almost 1/2 an hour long. Many may appreciate Allen Ginsberg reading Sunflower Sutra and Pull My Daisy etc. at The Knitting Factory locale for over 30-minutes and we also get James Franco reciting Howl (audio only - 3-parts + footnote - 25:00) and lastly a 22-minute Provincial Film Festival Q + A with directors Rob Epstein + Jeffrey Friedman, moderated by Cameron Mitchell. An equivalent DVD copy of the film is included in the package.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Most will have to admit that at its bare minimum this is extremely interesting. For myself I also found it educational. It's a wonderful exploration of Ginsberg and the filmmakers have gone to great lengths for accuracy and minute detail. This is more than an homage - it's a passionate discovery - a revealing tribute. Epstein gained some justifiable acclaim for The Times of Harvey Milk (eventually coming to Criterion Blu-ray HERE) and has made solid documentaries/films in the 15 years hence. I like Howl and the Blu-ray a lot - Franco is great. It's a fabulous package. Despite some reservations in a few areas we do, indeed, recommend! 

Gary Tooze

December 30th, 2010

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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