The Sunday Intertitle: Bad Vats and Jeroboams


There are TWO intertitles in Kevin Allen’s new film of UNDER MILK WOOD, screened at EIFF in advance of its general release this autumn. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the film to frame-grab these from, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. And I can’t remember exactly what they say. The Fest is becoming blurry.

As is the film — frequent smearings of digital vaseline to rub the image into a glassy glaze, along with multiple other tricks and tics — it’s a hugely resourceful film, visually, as it needs to be. The challenge of matching pictures to Dylan Thomas’ “Play for Voices” which don’t overwhelm the text or blandly illustrate it must have been daunting. Allen, who reports that he spent the intervening decade since his last feature working on a pig farm, seems to have grown immensely in stature as a director — this was a proper Ken Russell phantasmagoria.

Allen burst on the scene with TWIN TOWN, producer Andrew MacDonald’s follow-up to TRAINSPOTTING, which I think suffered from the sense of letdown that it wasn’t as assured and entertaining as its predecessor — but it did give us Rhys Ifans. Ifans, who seems to be in every film in the Fest, is back here as both First Voice and Captain Cat Complimenting his Jekyll-Hyde dual role in THE MARRIAGE OF REASON & SQUALOR), along with the estimable Charlotte Church, all lusty smile and lascivious jiggle as Polly Garter.


Allen decided to treat the film as ALL DREAM, with scenes flowing together and surreal and bawdy rupturings of reality pushing through at every turn. It’s frequently delirious and only occasionally deleterious — when what the text calls a “shaving glass” is represented by a wall mirror in a shop, I couldn’t see what was gained by the mismatch. And maybe there are too many phalluses. But it’s all livelier and more evocative than the earlier Richard Burton job, I think. In that one, the line “circling her nipples with lipstick” is illustrated by a busty wench drawing rings round the outside margins of her bosoms, as if about to turn them into pink-nosed smiley faces. Allen persistently seems to have a better idea of what Thomas was on about, and aided by Mark Thomas’ epic, sumptuous score and Andy Hollis’ gorgeous photography, has created something rather intoxicating.

8 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Bad Vats and Jeroboams”

  1. Have you seen the earlier film version of “Under Milk Wood”?

    Ifans is one of the best things in the otherwise disappointing new “Madame Bovary.”

  2. Jeff Gee Says:

    I wanted to post this Kinks song on my BF page in honor of Ray Davies birthday, and couldn’t hear the music because of all the naked people. Somebody here must know what movie this is!

    Just to keep on topic: according to her imdb page, this (the Kevin Allen movie, not the Kinks video) is Charlotte Church’s SECOND Under Milkwood.

  3. Early Doris Wishman? I’m not sure if it’s actually American or just trying hard to suggest it.

    This is Charlotte Church;s second AND THIRD Under Milk Wood in two years, since this version exists in separate English and Welsh language versions. She could easily make a career out of this, working her way through the entire dramatis personae.

  4. Doris Wishman or not, why does youtube’s admin get in a lather about a bit of willy-‘n-bollock but is stoutly unmoved by acres of mammary?
    Dear god, now I’m off-topic too.

  5. It’s a fair question. As Lindsay Anderson once said at Cannes after being refused entry to his own film because he didn’t have a tie, “Your rules are too complicated for me.”

  6. As a target yout’ I remember actually enjoying Twin Town more than Trainspotting. It seemed wilder, less obviously trying to be Scorsese, and beautifully cast. Did it also give us Dougray Scott?

  7. It might’ve. I might like it better than Transpotting now. I like aboit half of Trainspotting a lot, and hate about a quarter. The rest is just fair.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: