Archive for Dylan Thomas

The Sunday Intertitle: Bad Vats and Jeroboams

Posted in FILM, literature, Radio, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2015 by dcairns

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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.

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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.

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue…”

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by dcairns

Lloyd Bridges in THIRD PARTY RISK.

A very middling thriller: two-fisted lyricist Lloyd is distracted from recording Spanish folk tunes by a plot involving compromising showgirl letters, industrial secrets, and Finlay Currie as the world’s least convincing Hungarian. The whole thing is goofily enjoyable like an episode of The Saint accidentally inflated to feature length. Ferdy Mayne and Roger Delgado add swarthiness and suavity.

Director Daniel Birt seems quite bored with it all, adding to my half-baked theory about British cinema — there were periods, notably the late forties and mid-sixties, when the quality produced by the best filmmakers was so high, it raised the overall standard. Moderately gifted directors couldn’t help but be inspired by the startling stuff around them, and raised their game accordingly. Birt’s films in 1948 (the climactic year of that boom), co-written by Dylan Thomas, are almost startlingly good. THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS (his first film, Nova Pilbeam’s last) and NO ROOM AT THE INN have Gothic panache and very modern flourishes, as well as controversial church-bashing and subversive morbidity, but just six years later he’s directing with one eye on oblivion. What happened to him, or rather, what happened to British filmmaking?

The question is raised over at The Daily Notebook in this week’s The Forgotten.

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