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Howl by Carter Burwell (Review)

posted Sep 30, 2010, 12:09 PM by Kaya Savas

Howl is a film about the trial against Allen Ginsberg who was being prosecuted for his poem "Howl", which was considered indecent. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman reunite with Carter Burwell for the project. They last collaborated on The Celluloid Closet in 1995. I think what makes this film unique is that the directors really haven't dabbled in fictional narratives. While this is indeed based on a true story it is still considered fiction at least to me. The two directors have made their mark in the documentary world and that is their speciality.

With Carter Burwell it's very easy to know what to expect from him. He has an unmistakable style and what I always look forward to is how his style fits within films that are not directed by the Coen brothers. The score has a slight jazz feel to it, but it is in no way a jazzy score. Piano is the featured instrument with those signature cello plucks that make Burwell's music so recognizable. At times the music is melancholic but at times it has this sharp edge. An electric guitar will occasionally make an appearance turning the music from simple and quiet melodies into sharp and edgy melodies. The thing is that the melodies don't change it's just the instrumentation. The track "Prophecy" brings in a percussive beat that adds to that.

The score at times gives off the feel that you are at a poetry reading at a local coffee shop. In fact you could probably read poetry to some of the tracks. As the score finishes we end on a rather beautiful note. It closes off what is a very unique score. Burwell's scores never become louder than the images they accompany yet still manage to echo the emotions. While this score will probably be overlooked very easily I do feel it's an important entry in Burwell's repertoire.