Beat-icon Allen Ginsberg is getting a resurgence of attention, 13 years after his death at the age of 70. A movie based on the story behind Ginsberg’s signature poem, “Howl,” opens this Friday. It stars James Franco as the young poet embroiled in a 1957 obscenity trial over the poem, which ended in a landmark win for free speech. The movie is already garnering praise for animated sequences (made partially in Thailand) that put images to Howl’s words. Director Rob Epstein noted that Ginsberg, a fan of Eastern religions, “would appreciate us outsourcing to a Buddhist country.”
And an exhibition of Ginsberg’s photography, “Beat Memories,” played to enthusiastic crowds all summer at Washington-D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. Ginsberg had both a unique eye and unique access to a generation of literary heroes, snapping classic portraits like Jack Kerouac smoking on a fire escape and William Burroughs standing next to a sphinx at the Museum of Natural History.
Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie looks at why Ginsberg—a champion of gay rights, free speech, nonviolence, and drug legalization—still has a lot to teach us.