I’m looking for a few good films that offer up poetic content, to put it vaguely, or a representation of a poet that doesn’t completely romanticize the poet, disintegrating the person in the process… films with a poetry angle, please!
Gysin’s “The Cut-ups” of course trumps
Cronenberg’s take of “Naked Lunch”
“Sleep” featuring John Girono!
Mary Ellen Bute’s “Finnegan’s Wake”
Abigail Child’s films
–From Danny S.
“Pandaemoniu” — really good movie about Wordsworth and Coleridge
Chaucer in “A Knight’s Tale”.
“Gothic” about Shelley and Byron
“Tom & Viv”
–From Jason Q.
“Charge of the Light Brigade”
”The Barretts of Wimpole Street”
Christina Rossetti in “Kiss Me Deadly”
Ken Russell, Dante’s Inferno
Parker’s “Smash Up”
“A Star Is Born”
HD’s film criticism, too
–From Catherine D.
“Stevie” about Stevie Smith, starring Glenda Jackson
Away from biographical representation, for pure film as poetry, look for any of the films by Maya Deren.
“Borderline,” 1930 silent experimental film, with H.D. and Paul Robeson, is available as DVD. The film was made by HD’s then companion Kenneth Macpherson, and also features Bryher in an interesting role.
–From Charlotte M.
“The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca”
”The History Boys”
–From Beverly R.
“A Month in the Country” based on the novella by J. L. Carr
–From Ellen M.
Maya Angelou’s TV movie, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. And what about “Looking for Langston” by Isaac Julien
–From Mendi O.
“An Angel at My Table” — the life story of Janet Frame
–From Diane L.
Errol Morris film, “Fast Cheap and Out of Control“
–From Connie V.
“Eternity and a Day” (Mia aioniotita kai mia mera,1998) is a hauntingly beautiful film about a fictional ageing poet by Theo Angelopoulos, for whom poetry is “a creative medium that he still considers to be the most important artistic influence in his life.”
–From Ann L.
Altman’s “Short Cuts” is based on Raymond Carver stories.
“Cooley High” — one of the characters is a poet/writer, who’s writing gets stolen and mocked.
If it’s literature in film, “Finding Forrester”, based loosely on JD Salinger. And isn’t that our Charles Bernstein’s big screen debut?
–From Eric D.
“The River Niger” starring Louis Gossett Jr., James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson. All’s framed by James Earl’s character composing a single poem, which he finally reads. If I’m remembering right the poet’s a commercial painter.
–From Jared S.
Sergei Paradjanov’s “Color of Pomegranates”
–From Alex D.
Knut Hamsun’s “Hunger”.
“The Kiss of the Spider Woman”. At first blush, this is not be about writing or a writer at all. But one of the inmates in jail in that movie spins a fascinating Nazi love story (a gay sado-masochistic fantasy) to pass time. To me, “The Curse” is one of the best films about the process of writing, how writing is associated with creating a style and how writing’s relationship with political and personal events is often tangential. It is a great movie about the fusion of politics with art.
“Under the Volcano”
–From Murat N.
Favorite topic for me. I can suggest a few, you could check’em out to see if they suit your need. Are you seeking films on poets or films with poetic content ? Or both?
I worked on an article in the recent past discussing certain poems of John Ashbery comparing them with films or sections of certain films or simply scenes that came reeling back to me while I read those poems. Discussed some of them with Ashbery. Quite an intriguing conversation. You could try “Run Lola Run” (by Tom Twyker) if you have not seen it already. JA liked that one the most - in the metaphorical context of his work. He said that the structure reminded him some of his early pantoums and centos.
I thought some of Theo Angelopoulos’ films are intensely poetic -
a. Landscape in the Mist
b. Eternity and a Day
c. Ulysses’ Gaze
d. Wild Strawberries
and the above all the master of film poetry, as Scorcese calls him, Satyajit Ray
f. The Apu Trilogy - 3 films, Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu
g. Days and Nights in the Forest
h. The Lonely Wife
John Ashbery and Peter Gizzi told me about filmmakers Jorgen Leth and Guy Maddin. Haven’t had a chance to try them. Check them out. They might spell wonders.
i. Kaveh Zavedi’s “In the Bathtub of the World” - a film titled after JA’s poem - you might know this one.
Films on poets -
j. Tom & Viv (T S Elliot & his wife)
k. The Color of Pomegranate (Parajanov’s classic film on Armenian poet Sayat Nova)
l. In Custody - a brilliant film on the life of an ageing fictitious poet.
m. Attenborough’s Shadowland - a film on the love affair between C S Lewis and Joy Gresham.
Hope this helps.
“The Last Clean Shirt,” which is a collaboration between the filmmaker Alfred Leslie & Frank O’Hara, from 1964.
–From Charles A.
Diane Middlebrook’s interpretation in her fine biogrtaphy of their marriage, “Her Husband”
“Four Weddings and a Funeral”
–From Alicia O.
“Mrs. Parker and Her Vicious Circle,” 1994
“Rowing with the Wind” (Remando con el viento)
–From Diane K.
Before Night Falls (2000) by Julian Schnabel, the life of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas;
Basquiat by Julian Schnabel, is worth a vision
Talking of poetic films, what about Jules et Jim by Truffault
–From Anny B.
There was a Norwegian film a few years ago (2001? 2003?) called “Elling.” It’s the story of a man who lived with his mother all his life; when she died he was moved to a home for the insane where he has a roommate who becomes his family. When Norway closes their institutions, the two men are placed in an apartment with a social worker who is to help them live in society. One day Elling wanders into a bar and there’s a poetry slam or reading going on….and he discoverers that he is a poet! It’s a delightful movie, both about social issues and about poetry, and the need poets have to get their words out to the public. It’s funny and touching and could be a great movie to watch and discuss with students.
–From Priscilla H.
There is a wonderful film about a variety of responses to art, called Le Gou’t des autres. Specifically it has a scene from Racine’s play Be’re’nice–but done in “modern way” that has satirical overtones. It might cause some argument about how people “should” behave.
–From William S.
Amy, the recent film “Reprise” from Norway is about writers–painful to watch in many ways/ lots of it felt stolen from Jules et Jim–but it certainly does focus on writers–in a pretty horrible way but it’s playing now so…thought I’d suggest it though don’t recommend in sense of “good film” since it’s not since there was no viewing “pleasure” on my part–but students might relate—
–From Bobbi L.
There’s a short film (less than 10 minutes) by the Kumeyaay filmmaker Cedar Sherbert based on James Welch’s poem “Gesture Down to Guatemala,” which I’ve taught in both Native lit classes and in an advanced workshop. In the workshop, it was linked to an assignment for students to script one of their own poems. It’s easiest to buy the film directly from Cedar. Here’s his website: http://www.nativenetworks.si.edu/Eng/rose/sherbert_c.htm
–From Janet M.
The Great McGonagall, with Peter Sellars as Queen Victoria
–From Sam G.
“Possession” another Paltrow film — At the heart of the story are two Victorian poets and their writings, and their story is told through two modern academics. It’s a good tale of “reading into” and interpreting meanings.
–From Maria D.
Beautiful Dreamers (1990)
In an insane asylum, Dr. Maurice Bucke, meets poet Walt Whitman, his life and that of his…
Before Night Falls (2000)
Episodic look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas…
Based on the gay poetry of R. Raj Rao…
1938… In that year, Alfred, worker and poet, is politically active in a Parisian …
En compagnie d’Antonin Artaud (1994)
May, 1946, in Paris young poet Jacques Prevel meets Antonin Artaud…
Fat Man on a Beach (1973) (TV)
A poet of forty wanders about the beach, changes his clothes when he feels like it, reads his poetry, reminisces engagingly, and reflects…
Falsk som vatten (1985)
John and Carl have a small publishing company. One day John meets the poet Clara who recently made her debut …
Fine Madness, A (1966)
Samson Shillitoe, a frustrated poet and a magnet for women, is behind in his alimony payments, and lives with Rhoda, a waitress who stands by him through all his troubles. Samson becomes belligerent when he cannot find the inspiration to finish his big poem so Rhoda tries to get him to see the psychiatrist Dr. West, who claims to be able to cure writer’s block….
Great McGonagall, The (1974)
The tale of an unemployed Scotsman, William McGonagall whose ambition was to become England’s Poet Laureate. One minor drawback is that his poetry is terrible.
Harms Case, The (1988)
Based upon the life and writing of literary visionary Danil Harms, a Russian avant-garde poet of the 1920s who was persecuted and ultimately silenced by the Soviet authorities.
Hedd Wyn (1992)
A young poet living in the North Wales countryside competes for the most coveted prize of all in Welsh Poetry - that of the chair of the National …
Hoggs’ Heaven (1994) (TV)
Having won a small poetry competition, William Hogg invites his parents to his apartment for a simple, celebratory dinner. Clearly, he’s forgotten his family’s penchant for drunken, kleptomaniacal lunacy. A high-spirited comic nightmare.
Iddy Biddy Beat Boy (1993)
A parable about art, propriety, and politics. A hip beat poet, who looks a lot like a child, reads poetry at the Ad Hoc Cafe; he’s a success and Mr. Hipster, a powerful promoter, gets Iddy Biddy Beat’s career moving with TV appearances, where the poet is a sensation.However, his poetry scandalizes Dr. Proper and his uptight wife, who arrange for Beat’s arrest and imprisonment.
Joe Gould’s Secret (2000)
Around 1940, New Yorker staff writer Joe Mitchell meets Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village character who cadges meals, drinks, and contributions to the Joe Gould Fund and who is writing a voluminous Oral History of the World, a record of 20,000 conversations he’s overheard. Mitchell is fascinated with this Harvard grad and writes a 1942 piece about him, “Professor Seagull,” bringing Gould some celebrity and an invitation to join the Greenwich Village Ravens, a poetry club he’s often crashed.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1997)
Gordon Comstock is a copywriter at an ad agency, and his girlfriend Rosemary is a designer. Gordon believes he is a genius, a marvelous poet and quits the ad agency, trying to live on his poems, but poverty soon comes to him.
Kleine blonde dood, De (1993)
The poet Valentijn Boecke meets his former teacher Mieke. They have a short relation. After a while Mieke appears to be pregnant.
Lado oscuro del corazón, El (1992)
Oliveiro is a young poet living in Buenos Aires where sometimes he has to sale his ideas to an advertising agencie to make a living or exchange his poems for a steak. In Montevideo, he met a prostitute, Ana, with whom he fell in love. Back in Buenos Aires, he accept a contract with a publicity agencie to get the money for three days of love with her.
Leonard Cohen, Spring 1996 (1997)
The film shows the daily life of the poet and singer Leonard Cohen at the Mount …
Lichnoye delo Anny Akhmatovoy (1989)
look at the life of Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966. It begins and ends with footage from her funeral, and includes readings from her diaries and of her poems. Also included are passages of official Soviet criticism. She was born near Odessa, married and published her first volume of poetry in 1912, was a friend of Blok…
Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, The (1993)
the life and work of the greatest poet of the Beat Generation. Along with the usual biographical details, we also get to experience the poet’s readings of his work such as his…
Los Enchiladas! (1999)
…… and the “Chef” has jumped ship to join a beatnik poet’s group which specializes in exotic menu-writing….
Love Jones (1997)
Darius Lovehall is a young black poet in Chicago who starts dating Nina Moseley, a beautiful and talented photographer. While trying to figure out if they’ve got a “love thing” or are just “kicking it,” they hang out with their friend, talking about love and sex.
Love Lesson, The (1995)
Seventeen years ago Camille, a gallery owner, and Grace, a civil servant, made a verbal adoption agreement: Grace would raise Camille’s son Christopher with the provision that all three live in close proximity, and that the existence of the arrangement be kept from the child forever. This triangle changes drastically when Christopher, now a heterosexual teenager, becomes HIV-positive through sex and drugs and is thrown into maturity much too early. Camille lives her life in the New York art world, and poets and writers regularly gather at her apartment to read their work. The poets’ voices echoing across the common courtyard to Chris become the continuous physical bridge between
their lives. Via courtyard windows and the resonance of sound, a mystical link forms as Camille steps into a role in his life that she never really wanted nor would have imagined.
Luces de bohemia (1985)
In the empty house of his family, Ramon, a poet, remembers the last day of the life of his master: the last time he went out with his friend don Latino de Hispalis…
Lunatics: A Love Story (1991)
A delusional and paranoid poet hallucinates and almost becomes a serial killer, but saves a beautiful girl from street-gang members and becomes a hero.
Mail Bonding (1995)
“Mail Bonding” is a romantic comedy about a struggling poet who takes a humorous but dangerous route by falling in love with his mail carrier, a woman with a troubled past. Told in the silent film style with digital effects.
Middle of the Moment (1995)
The film is a documentary or even a cinepoem which follows the life of nowadays nomads: The Tuareg in North Africa, a circus company and the American philosopher and poet ‘Robert Lax’.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Deeds a simple-hearted greeting card poet…
North of Vortex (1991)
A gay poet heads west from New York City in his convertible. He picks up a muscular sailor ….
The Russian poet Gortchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th century Russian composer. In a ancient spa town, he meets the lunatic Domenico….
An influential Serbian poet decides to leave Nazi-occupied Belgrade and join partisans in the country. A young resistance activist, however, is not so thrilled with the idea because the old and womanizing intellectual doesn’t fit in with his strict moralistic standards.
Poetry in Motion (1982)(1998)
…20 contemporary North American poets recite, sing, and perform their work. Several also comment.
The poet Prasad (K. Date) lives far from the city in a forest, enjoying only the company of his wife Pratibha (Khote). The court poet Kaveeshwar (Phatak) of a neighbouring kingdom discovers Prasad’s poetry and….
Puisi tak terkuburkan (2000)
Tells the true story of the didong (a style of ballad) poet Ibrahim Kadir. He was in prison and was present during the mass killings of an estimated 500,000 suspected communists when Indonesian President Suharto came to power in 1965. His humanistic poems recreate that era.
Sånger från andra våningen (2000)
A film poem inspired by the poet Caesar Vallejo….
…agrees to marry the divorced American poet Joy Davidman Gresham, to allow her and…
A young, idealistic poet, turns his back on civilization and goes to small, backwood village, rents a bed in the house of an old woman, and decides to make his living as a lumberjack.
This movie portrays British poet/author Stevie Smith (Glenda Jackson)
Student Nurses, The (1970)
…One falls for a poet…
…life of Mary Swann, an obscure Canadian poet who was brutally murdered by her lover…
Tongues Untied (1991)
from other gay Black men, especially poet Essex Hemphill, celebrates Black men loving Black men as a revolutionary act. The film intercuts footage of Hemphill reciting his poetry…
…Dedalus, who fancies himself as a poet, embarks on a day of wandering about …
…century, the story concerns a Polish poet living in Cracow who has decided to…
The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man.
Winter Meeting (1948)
Spinster poetess Susan Grieve lives in a Manahattan …
…choreographer, multi-media artist, and poet who died of AIDS in 1994…
The director mixes flashbacks, historical footage and original poetry to illustrate the reminiscences of a dying man about his childhood during World War II, adolescence, and a painful divorce in his family. The story interweaves reflections about Russian history and society.
–From Maria D.
–From J for James
”Eternity and A Day” with Bruno Ganz as a Greek poet whose life is in a drainswirl. He meets a young Albanian street urchin and they go on a journey. About a 1/3 too long for its own good; but some beautiful, evocative and existential scenes.
Based on Pat Barker’s novel of the same name, ‘Regeneration’ tells the story of soldiers of World War One sent to an asylum for emotional troubles. Two of the soldiers meeting there are Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, two of England’s most important WW1 poets.
Lonely island postman develops friendship with exiled Pablo Neruda, and learns how to live.
“Before Night Falls”
This powerful glimpse into the life of famed Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem) spans several decades in his eventful life. Although vilified for his homosexuality in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Arenas finds success as a writer but must eventually emigrate to New York City to enjoy unfettered creative freedom. Johnny Depp appears twice: as a transvestite inmate and as a warden.
Starring: Andrea Di Stefano, Javier Bardem Director: Julian Schnabel
The self-destructive relationship between 19th-century teenage French poet Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his older mentor Paul Verlaine (Alan Thewlis).
The Leslie Howard character a despondent poet who rises to the occasion and faces down the snarling gangster Duke Mantee (Bogie)
“A Man in Love” Peter Coyote, playing an actor, finds a new romance in the Italian countryside while on location shooting a movie about the life of Cesare Pavese.
“A Merry War” Richard E Grant as adman who quits his good job
to become a poet (not a good career choice); Helena Bonham Carter co-stars.
Deborah Winger and Anthony Hopkins star in this emotionally moving romantic drama adapted by William Nicholson from his own acclaimed play, based upon the real-life romance (during the 1950s) between the British writer C.S. Lewis and a divorced American poet named Joy Gresham.
“Tom & Viv”
TS Eliot and troubled relationship with first wife (?).
“HeartBeat” (with Notle & Spacek as the squablling Cassadys; John Heard plays
Kerouac; the Ginsberg part was minor, as I recall)
“Belle of Amherst” (Julia Harris as ED)
“Stevie” (Glenda Jackson as Stevie Smith)
“Beautiful Dreamer” (Rip Torn as Walt Whitman, but more about a doctor trying to reform an asylum in Canada and trying hold onto the his wife’s love.)
“MindWalk” (John Heard, as a poet, Liv Ulmann, a scientist w/ a humanist streak and Sam Waterson, as a jaded politician, make conversation as they walk along the sandflats at low tide toward to Mt.-St.-Michel.)
“A Fine Madness” (Sean Connery as hard drinking/womanizing poet at odds with the social milieu of the literary life he finds himself in.)
“Ruben, Ruben” (Tom Conte as a poet who is loosing his teeth)
“Tales of Ordinary Madness” (Ben Gazzara as Charles Bukowski, lots of hard drinking and tough talk)
“Poetic Justice” (Janet Jackson & Tupac Shakar star)
“Haunted Summer” — The plot summary from IMBD: In 1815, authors Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley get together for some philosophical discussions, but the situation soon deteriorates into mind games, drugs and sex. Why would this be considered a deterioration?
“The Barretts of Wimpole Street” — charting the courtship of Elizabeth Barrett by Robert Browning.
“Dead Poets Society” — Robin Williams stars
Oddly no one seems to have noted Cocteau’s “ORPHEE,” which inspired Jack Spicer’s receiving poetry from the radio, or Cocteau’s “Le Sang du poete” (Blood of a Poet) probably the first film to take place entirely between an opening of a building collapsing and a final “scene” of the conclusion of the building’s collapse—-a play on the “film within a film” and also an expression of the speed of poetic thought traveling faster than a building collapsing, the “film of the imagination” NOT shown in the “documentary”–yet existing simultaneously–”mental trajectories” within a “jump cut”–
a lot of films made beginning with Feuillades’ serials (“Les Vampyrs,” etc)– France culminating in the work of Jean Vigo, “L’atalante” esp and the Dali/Bunuel “l’Age d’or” & Chien Andalu–(one could add Buneul’s “Los Olvidados” also)
Pier Paulo Pasolini -a great poet who made many superb films–including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales-
Robert Frank’s “Pull My Daisy” with spontaneous prosody voice over narration by Kerouac and “starring” Ginsberg, Corso & Larry Rivers-
The Howard Hawks western “El Dorado” which includes recitation of lines from the Poe poem of that name–
Samuel Beckett films done with Buster Keaton
Antonin Artaud’s astonishing screen appearances and film writing–
Eisenstein wrote essays detailing the influences of Chinese calligraphic poetry and influences of literature in his works
the poems and prose of Poe inspired lot of avant-garde French cinema of the Twenties and of course the Roger Corman cult classics of early 1960’s–
there’s even a pretty silly Hollywood “bio-pic” of Villon–
Bertolucci’s early film “The Spider Strategem” is from a great Borges story–
Susan Howe in Writing 19 wrote a really interesting essay on Olson’s “seeing in a poem” and cinema of Pudovkin and others–
Stan Brakhage influenced by many of the poets he encountered-for example, -in Film Culture’s Brakhage issue of Fall 1963 , Brakhage writes long letter to his wife Jane re his first encounter with Olson–
there must be thousands more considering how many films in so many languages from so many cultures there are! many come to mind but at moment can’t recall the tiles clearly enough–from, Japan and India alone—
–From David Chirot
And I might add the poetics of Chris Marker’s “La Jetee” — a film Susan Howe shared with us, along with the Vertov, in one of her poetics classes.
Which leads me to the Clarice Lispector novel-turned-film, Hour of the Star — a film I can add since Lispector’s fiction was poetry.
A Few Quickie Last Minute Additions
–From Aryanil Mukherjee
Also Andrei Tarkovsky, to me an arch poet of film, especially in Stalker. He quotes poems in most (if not all) of his film, mostly those of his father, Arsey Tarkovsky. I wrote an essay on Stalker – “Tarkovsky’s Stalker: A poet in a destitute time” - last year, if anyone is interested.
–From Alison Croggon
To the “Canterbury Tales” you should add “Decameron” (taken from Giovanni Boccaccio’s homonymous work) in which the same Pasolini appears with Giuseppe Zigaina (painter and most important friend of the poet), the movie was also shot in this town at the Civic Museum defined by Pasolini “the most beautiful museum he has ever seen”, and “A Thousand and One Nights” (the original title is “The Flower of the One Thousand and One Nights”) a sublime poem by itself.
Later on these three movies will be defined “The Trilogy of Life”. Moreover, Pasolini chose his actors from the paintings of the masters and reproduced the same scenes directly from the paintings. He preferred Mannerism to all other styles, and his favorite painter was (if I am not wrong) Andrea del Sarto. He studied at the University of Bologna, one of his professors was Roberto Longhi (main Italian art critic, no wonder he started out from Art).
Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)»
Thank you Amy for gathering all the inputs, this is such an incredible list.
Re-poetry on Film:
The great Welles adaptations of Shakespeare, Othello, Chimes at Midnight, his lesser Macbeth,
Recently, Sally Potter’s Yes, dialogue entirely in rhyming Audenesque couplets.
I think I saw it up there already, but Jane Campion’s biopic of Janet Frame, Angel at my Table, her best film. And arguably, though the dialogue is nominally, prose Duras/Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour, esp. the opening Q&A and arguably, the Rilkean angel-monologues by Peter Handke in Wenders’ Wings of Desire.
The entire output of Brakhage output in the 50’s 60’s is in a dialogue with Olson, Creeley, Kelly.
Some others I forgot:
Geography of the Body, Willard Maas and Marie Menken, contains poetic voice over attached to erotic extreme close ups of human anatomy
Derek Jarman’s Last of England makes significant use of Virgil and Eliot among others.
All of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films cross-reference his career as a poet, most significantly his Gospel According to St. Matthew which contains no language other than the original text, and notably his adaptations of Boccaccio and the Decameron
John Ford on occasion has character’s recite poetry, in My Darling Clementine, in
They Were Expendable,
Godard’s characters quote poetry constantly: Mayakovsky in Les Carabiniers, Eluard “Capital of Pain” in Alphaville, Rimbaud the climax of Pierrot Le Fou, Appollinaire in Weekend,
Gus Van Zant’s My Own Private Idaho intermittently has the character’s dialogue become the Shakespearian verse of Henry IV
Here’s an odd variant for you — films based on poems.
The Set-Up, starring Robert Ryan, based on Joseph Moncure March’s masterpiece novel in doggerel, about a washed-up prizefighter.
Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov. Bodrov drew from an epic poem, “The Secret History of the Mongols,” written in the century after Genghis Khan’s death and rediscovered in China in the 1800s; but as the director admits in his notes, “You can’t trust a poem for 100% historical accuracy.”
Shinbone Alley, based on another work of genius from the same era as The Set-Up, and like The Set-Up, outside of the canon: Don Marquis’ Archy and Mehitabel.
What a remarkable list and on the very day I was wondering if the internet would produce anything else of lasting value (not that there’s anything wrong with amateur police brutality videos). I thought I had a unique title to offer, but I see somebody else beat me to “Ruben, Ruben.” I see “Pinero” as portrayed by Benjamin Bratt, but not the film “Short Eyes,” screenplay by Pinero, from his most enduring work.
[...] Movie Review — Patti Smith: Dream of Life [and a big list of movies with poetry] [...]
Just thinking around this lovely topic, I came up with a few movies that I’d only very tongue-in-cheekily categorize as having a “poetry angle”:
Here’s a link to C. Thomas Howell, as Ponyboy, reciting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in Coppola’s “The Outsiders,” based on the Hinton novel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_d8FKgrZ1E
A D.H. Lawrence poem, “Self Pity,” is a fairly central recurring motif in Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NT8l-eHZvM).
Sean Connery is hilarious in the 1984 “Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” based on the Middle English poem. Here’s the funny trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW7B-UNWk4s
In Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers,” King Theoden’s recitation before battle, beginning “Where is the horse and the rider” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkx6_qvwemE) is based on a Latin verse tradition called “ubi sunt” (”where are”) that occurs in the 10th Century Old English poem “The Wanderer.”
The Coen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou” is based on The Odyssey of Homer. Here’s the “Sirens” clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxlyKA9O9LA
There are moments on the cyber surfboard when, trawling through sites and discovering some amazing gem, I find myself wondering what on earth I ever did before the internet really took off.
Thanks for this, Amy. Much to read and discover!
Re the above comment, my husband loves ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ by the way. And it is an excellent film.
The recitation of the Lady Gregory translation of the anonymous poem/ballad known as “Donal Og” (which begins “It was late last night and the dog was speaking of you”) in John Huston’s film version of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Quite powerful.
It famously concludes:
“You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me.”
Auden could have used a footnote in his “Funeral Blues” back to this source poem.
Don @ Lilliput Review
Here at the Michigan Quarterly Review we published an essay by Stacey Harwood on poetry in movies, which included a list that we have posted on our website and have continued to update:
Check it out if you’re interested.
Mr. Wrong (dir. Nick Castle, 1996), with Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman. The best scene in the movie occurs when Pullman and DeGeneres are in bed together after their “first time” and she asks him to recite some of his original poetry. He does, and she gets her first inkling of how very wrong he is indeed. I wish I could find the text of the poem, or even remember some of it–the only part I can recall is something about ET phoning home.
In The Man with Two Brains (dir. Carl Reiner, 1983), Steve Martin recites his “Pointy Bird” poem (”Oh pointy bird, oh pointy-pointy / Anoint my head, anointy-nointy”).
In Don Siegel’s spy thriller Telefon (1977) with Charles Bronson, lines from Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” are used to activate hypnotized Russian sleeper agents.
I always remember this one episode of Taxi where Louie (Danny DeVito) tells Elaine (Marilu Henner) that he wrote a poem for her. She drops her guard for a moment, thinking he has a soul after all, and then he recites it: “Me and you … naked, on a rock.”
Let’s not forget Jane Campion’s “In The Cut” which warns you about the dangers of poetry and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” which is a quote from Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard.
Oh my, this is fun.
Drive, he said–Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut and a Cannes entry of 1971–
i have always imagined the title to come from the famous Creeley line/poem–though the film is from a novel by Jeremy Lerner–i haven’t seen that film in so long –and what i recall, it’s quite possible the line is from Creeley–
Basketball Diaries from the book by Jim Carroll, also songwriter/musician band leader (the Jim Carroll Band)and poet
and i keep thinking about William Blake being quoted in The Horse’s Mouth and William Blake as the name of the character (played by Johnny Depp) in the film Deadman who, while is NOT William Blake the poet, the American Indian who finds him wounded and escorts him to the “waters of oblivion” keeps speaking to as though he IS William Blake the poet–the spirit of him–
an extraordinary film in which there is also a “case of mistaken literary/cinema identity” is the magnificent The Spirit of the Beehive directed by Victor Erice with the astounding Anna Torrant–in which a young girl, greatly moved by the sadness of the Frankenstein in James Whale’s film version of Mary Shelley’s book, enlists her young girl friend in helping a tramp in whom they see the qualities of Frankenstein which so greatly affected them–
the film leaves open the “obvious” ambiguity of the Frankenstein in the film, who kills a young girl he tries to befriend, as what the young girls “read onto” the tramp is the “good” Frankenstein who they see as wronged and sad and in need of a caring hand–
hovering in the air is also the recent Spanish Civil War and the WW2 in which Spain is neutral–this “background hum’ as it were permeating the repression of national and cultural trauma by the Franco Regime–
( a person who intends Good to more extreme tramp figures is treated in an entirely other way, as the repressed cancers that Franco’s Spain produces explode in violence, murder and attempted rape on the former Novice Viridiana in Bunuel’s film of that name)
there are a number of film versions also of writings by Dylan Thomas—A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Under Milkwood–
as well as the films from Lorca’s plays and poetry including the flamenco ballet of Carlos Saura’s Blood Wedding –
a “reverse engineering” of poetry and cinema exists for me in a lot of my work done this year, which had inspiration from a person and images in the film Battle of Algiers, which i saw yet again, with a very young audience–as always the film inspires a great enthusiasm for the fight for independence and justice in the face of the Oppressor-in the audience-what was s striking was that in the hall after the film had let out, it was hitting as in a wave al the people discussing what they had seen–that the roles of the French in the film are now those of the US and its allies–torturers, creators of outdoor prisons made of entire city areas, mass arrests, detentions–
a great many techniques, images, lines from the cinema have affected those in poetry– that is, in many cases, the cinema and its formal and technical devices have had a great many effects in poetry, as well as the other way round–
Kerouac called it “book-movie, the original American Form”–and in Philadelpho Menezes’ Poetics and Visuality A Trajectory of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry, sonority is presented as the next problem facing an experimental poetry (for Menzes this means Concrete, Visual, Sound and Inter-sign Poetries) which has “in its undeclared project” the “rejoining” of the the verbal, visual and sound, with sound NOT being the oralization of the written word/sign. To point in this direction, Menezes gives examples taken from the cinema, in which the sounds being heard are not those of the object being shown/read. This embraces such techniques as uses of music, voice-over narration and the like.
To give a sense of each Visual Poem being at once a “movie on a page” and as a series which the “presence” of an “imagery” in all senses of the term is moving through, the flikr gallery “Cinema of Catharsis” is the name given to a long series of new and recent pieces which began in finding in an old (1963) Life Magazine a huge color photo of Vietnamese inside a wire fenced area watched over by guards and shippers aloft in small towers, being show an American film designed to “win hearts and minds”–
the “Serials” of Louis Feuillade made in the 19 teens in France greatly inspired the Surrealist poets and visual artists– “harking back” (as Max Ernst makes explicit in his Visual-Collage-Serial-Novel creations) to the serials of th first half of the 19th Century and their illustrations, mass distributed in the competing newspapers and magazines of the time which effected Poe and his uses of the “short story” and his (reverse engineered AFTER the fact of the composition of “The Raven” it details) “Principles of Composition” which proposes that only the short poem (one that can be read in one sitting) is now really valid in such speeded up times–
Poe’s emphasis on the “short story,” the “short poem,” as simultaneously “discrete and complete” makes of each work a metynomic device which “points towards” that all encompassing enigmatic Cosmos of his “Eureka” which so greatly inspired the mathematician-poet Paul Valery.
In his film esays, Eisenstein explores the cinematic image as a metynomic device, so that one ship made be made to stand for a fleet, and so “leap over” both a too literal “realism” into a poetic one and also the image as metaphor–
montage is the order in which the discrete elements are assembled to create the :”effect”–which Poe argues is the “starting point” for the composition of the poem–yet for Eisenstein is what emerges from a dialectical method of assemblage–
in both examples, the “effect” “overall” of the assemblage of discrete elements is to be “greater than the sum of the parts:” for Poe the effect is to create an emotional meditation which points to his Cosmos (”mournful and never ending remembrance”) and for Eisenstein it is to point to the dialectics of revolutionary thought as/in action–
this use of “short” stories, poems, metonymic images also produces a sense of “focus” which in strange way is what Ezra Pound was able to perform when editing Eliot’s sprawling mass of ms materials for “The Wasteland” yet unable to sustain in his own Cantos–
(Eliot via LaForgue, Corbiere and Baudelaire’s translations, is a rhizomatic descendent of Poe, ironically enough shown by the then contemporary Anti-Eliot W.C. Willaims as The Pioneer of American Writing in his attention with language, in the final chapter of’ “In the American Grain”)
At the same time as Poetry is being broken down in terms of its focus, from poem, to line to word to letter in avant-gardes of the first 20 years of the 20th Century, the cinema was also on the one hand swelling into the Epic and on the other into ever more focus on the discrete element of the single frame as THE element of composition, though a frame which at the time is being show (at that time) 16 frames per second–making of each instant a series–
(Fordism and Taylorism are stimulated in their developments of techniques made possible by the anaylsis of movements provided by the cinema, as a technology which “synthesizes” those of Muybridge already literally employed in such a manner by the Kings of Time made manifest in the ever increasing efficiency of the “assembly line”–which in a sense is the “original” of what the Surrealists break down into the writing game of the Exquisite Corpse– which “recaptures” the Dream elements associated from its introduction with the Cinema and the experience of the spectator inside the darkness opening “inwardly outward” into the projected imagery of the “unconscious” on the screen– echoing the opening of that great favorite of the Surrealists, Gerard de
Nerval’s “Aurelia ou Le Reve et La Vie”
*”Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to cross through those gates of ivory of horn which separate us from the invisible world without a sense of dread.”*
The “portals of ivory” which seem to have inspired the architecture and decor of so many of the first “Dream Palaces”–
or the entrances to “Caves of Lascaux” and so many others, continually being discovered as a series moving further and further “back” into the historical-archeological records/recordings/notations/images” of human consciousness/the unconscious–
which, with images viewed by flickering light on the walls of caves, are a cinema which precedes the finding of Plato’s Cave– a Visual Poetry whose Sonorities as Menezes writes–lie ahead– yet which at the same time may already have been “sounding” for tens of thousands of years– only in a sounding which, paradoxically, by having been anchored on stone in caves, has endured so long that the while the images are still visible and “seen” as “signs of a writing”–their sounds have been “lost” to the contemporary ear– although in the sound chambers of the caves they may be sounding and resounding, echoing a poetry which has outlasted its listeners– or– perhaps, is the poetry Jack Spicer is writing of in declaring “nobody listens to poetry anymore”– making it possible to wonder in turn if perhaps in some ways “poetry listens to no one anymore”–a cinematic sonority found in caves that goes unheard– and an experimental poetry(Menezes means by this Concrete and Visual Poetry, Sound Poetry)–that will learn by listening to the cinema’s sonorities– an acoustic dimension which echoes Emerson’s “Perhaps the blank and ruin we see in Nature is in our own eye.”–a “non Poetry” one “does not hear” which is in one’s own ears– as a poetry “nobody listens to anymore”– which in turn may suggest a poetry which does not listen–anymore– to that which emerges out of the rocks marked in the notations of a time which moves at a different speed—- a sounding-not as an object, but like Robert Smithson’s “Look of the Artist,” something that is a “glance” “taking place” in time– not bound to the word alone, as Menezes proposes– (something which in effect cannot be owned)– in a sense, “nobody listens to poetry anymore” understood differently, as “nobody” listens to poetry anymore- being that “nobody” owns it anymore– a “Utopian” nobody which means “everybody”– hears it– (Rimbaud’s vision in poetry of the entrance into the “Splendid City” and “Christmas on Earth” in which everyone and everything is poetry–and Menezes’ of the ‘Utopian” arrival via his vision of the “undeclared” mission of a poetry questioning every aspect of society including language, habits, values, “’sensibility itself’” as the manifestations of the structural bases of the dominant ideology-in both Rimbaud and Menezes is the desire and work to overcome the “separations” which are continually being constructed to keep poetry from the “world” via the “word”– -)
i would like to add “love lion” with michael mcclure & ray manzarek & the “voices in wartime” documentary, http://www.voicesinwartime.org — a stunning documentary– thanks, denis
Jill Godmillow’s brilliant 1988 film “Waiting for the Moon” about Stein and Toklas is like one long poem. Beautifully written and filmed.
these two films may be stretching it a bit, but i would add:
“port of shadows” directed by marcel carne. probably one of the best examples of the poetic realism tendency in french film of the 1930s, although definitely at the depressing end of the scale. and, as and added plus, it offers one of jean gabin’s best performances ever.
“last year at marienbad” directed by alain resnais with a script by alain robbe-grillet. a completely non-linear narrative shot in a set that could have been designed by max ernst or giorgio de chirico, this is one of the few films that realizes the dream-like nature of film itself. the only other film i can compare it to is maya deren’s “meshes of the afternoon.”
Interesting that someone in an above comment mentioned that Ashbery turned them on to Guy Maddin. Maddin’s 2006 film Brand Upon the Brain! was a silent film with narration. During a multi-night run in a NYC theater, various “celebrities” were invited to provide the narration, including Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and John Ashbery. Ashbery’s and Anderson’s narrations are included on the DVD. Personally, I think Susan Howe would have been the perfect narrator.
Causes Amy King Supports