[Shigeoshi (Shig) Murao, Cafe Trieste, North Beach, San Francisco, 1987. photo: Allen Ginsberg. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]
We said we'd try and curtail posting too many Howl movie reviews. There's been one or two snipes and gripes, but mostly the response has been pretty uniformly enthusiastic. The main difficulty for reviewers has been trying to come to terms withwhat sort of movie it is. It's not your typical "bio pic", it's not actually a "bio pic" at all, it's a rare thing, (a unique thing maybe), a movie about a poem! Tim Plant in his Metro Weekly review (out of Washington DC) is typical of a number of reviewers who had difficulty and have been wrestling with this. We could cite more. It's important to stress this point, because the film-makers have, from some quarters, been unfairly criticized for not including more, and more substantial, biographical portraits. (Where's Burroughs and Corso, Huncke etc?, why such a slight evocation of Jack, Neal? - An unfair criticism). But, notwithstanding, why (since the film is very much centered around City Lights and the famous obscenity trial) is there no mention of Shig Murao, is, perhaps, a criticism to note. Shig, long-time bookstore manager at City Lights, was, as his biographer Patricia Wakida points out, "the one who was actually arrested by the San Francisco police for selling Howl and actually goes to jail. Ginsberg was in Tangier (Morocco) and Ferlinghetti was in Big Sur. Shig was the one who took the fall". See more about this important participant and fears of his erasure from the story here.
2012 update - notice of Richard Reynolds' comprehensive Shig site here