~ movies ~

Poetry film in the wild: Ford ads cancelled for frightening public with poetry, and a Hollywood movie that commissioned work from top-notch poets

Ah, consumerism! Nothing makes you want to buy a new sports car like a famous villanelle about death.

Or maybe not.

Adverts for three major car makers have been banned as advertising regulators have ruled that a Dyland [sic] Thomas poem encourages angry driving.

Adverts for Ford, Nissan and Fiat Chrysler will not be shown again after rulings by the [UK] Advertising Standards Authority.

Two adverts for Ford, seen on the carmaker’s YouTube channel and in cinemas, featured a voice-over that stated: “Do not go gentle into that goodnight… Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage. Rage against the dying of the light.”

After seeing the commercial twelve viewers complained that they depicted driving as a way of relieving anger.

Ford argued that the aim of the advert was to contrast the “everyday frustrations of work life with the freedom of driving a new Ford Mustang”, with viewers left to imagine how they would feel driving the car instead of experiencing in the daily grind of office life.

It said the voice-over quoted the Dylan Thomas poem “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and its reference in the adverts suggested that a Ford Mustang could be the antidote to a dull life.

The ASA said the advert showed the Mustang being driven in an “abrupt manner” as on-screen text read “Don’t go quietly” and characters were depicted releasing their anger while driving the car.

The ASA said: “We therefore considered that the ads suggested that driving was a way of releasing anger, which put the driver, other motorists and pedestrians at risk.”

Ford said: “Our intent is never to encourage unsafe driving and, while care was taken during filming of the ad to show the car driving safely and at no point exceeding 15mph, we will no longer include the ad in our future marketing communications.”

Now I know how John Lennon fans must’ve felt when “Revolution” was licensed to sell sneakers. It’s a cold comfort that the ads were only nixed because UK bureaucrats thought consumers would be too dumb to understand the poetry.

In a less depressing sign of the rising currency of poets and poetry film, The New York Times‘ Alexandra Alter has a very interesting article about The Kindergarten Teacher, a 2018 movie by Maggie Gyllenhaal, just released on Netflix in the US and Canada, in which poetry features prominently. Three contemporary American poets—Dominique Townsend, Ocean Vuong and Kaveh Akbar—were tasked with writing new work (or adapting pre-exisiting work) to fit the script. I hope the movie’s good, but even if not, it’s great to see poets getting a pay-out that doesn’t involve selling their souls to planet-destroying auto companies.

Akbar said writing poems for a character in a movie was weird, but not so different from using a writing prompt or a formal constraint.

“It was almost like working within a received form, like a sonnet or a villanelle, to write into the context of the script,” he said.

The bizarre nature of the exercise didn’t sink in until he went to the film’s New York premiere last month, which “was wild,” Akbar said.

“It’s not often that a poet gets to see their words on a movie theater screen,” he said. “So much of being a poet is very isolating, sitting in your pajamas over a notebook for 14 hours on end, so it’s cool to get to do something with poetry that’s very collaborative.”

The collaboration between the poets and filmmakers also shaped the movie, especially Gyllenhaal’s performance.

The poems that Townsend wrote for Lisa gave Gyllenhaal new insights into the character, she said, and helped her refine one of the film’s core themes — the question of why some budding artists are nurtured and celebrated, and others are ignored. She began to see Lisa not as a mediocre poet, but as a woman whose creativity is stifled because no one expects her to produce anything worthwhile.

“The movie is so much more tragic and more interesting if Lisa’s poetry is compelling,” Gyllenhaal said. “If it’s worth paying attention to and it isn’t paid attention to, that’s a tragedy.”

Read the rest.

News round-up: Motionpoems’ Kickstarter; Dylan Thomas movie; videopoems on Montreal poetry festival website

With just four days to go, Motionpoems’ Kickstarter campaign for its innovative weeCinema outdoor theater is still $15,000 short of its $20,000 goal. As previously reported here, a mere $10 pledge qualifies one to answer their call for poetry films to be screened in the weeCinema during the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Todd Boss announced on Facebook a few days ago that “Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler emails today to say he’s a huge Motionpoems fan. He pledged $200 to our newest project.” But it won’t happen without a lot more pledges. Do give if you can.


In not-so-wee cinema news, the Welsh newspaper Daily Post reports that

A movie about iconic poet Dylan Thomas, which stars a Holyhead-born actor and music by a top Welsh rocker, is to be released in the United States.

Set Fire to the Stars tells the story of a week in the life of hell-raising Welsh poet Dylan Thomas as he embarked on a disastrous tour of American universities in the 1950s.

By his side is young poetry professor and admirer John Malcolm Brinnin, whose philosophy for looking after the firebrand is “I’ll improvise”, but a fragile friendship is stretched beyond the limit.

Holyhead-born Celyn Jones stars as Thomas and he also co-wrote the script while Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys of Bethesda provides the original soundtrack. Brinnin is played by Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood.

Read the rest.


Finally, a poetry festival set for June in Montreal is foregrounding videopoetry. If, like me, you don’t understand French, here’s what Google Translate makes of it:

The House of Poetry of Montreal, in partnership with the Self media arts center Vidéographe launched an innovative advertising campaign in several districts of the city. On more than one thousand posters in the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Mile End, Ville-Marie, Rosemont Petite-Patrie and in the city center and Old Montreal, passers equipped with a smartphone can now scan a QR code and instantly watch videos-eight poems as many poets and video artists.

The viewer-reader at the end of each video-poem purchase the book of poetry which is taken the extract by a single click. It will then be directed to the website of a bookseller or publisher. He can also view all the video-poems on the www.videopoeme.com or at home in the Plateau-Mont-Royal culture, which showcases the works continuously for the duration of the Festival.

Through this joint development program for stimulating the House of Poetry allows several poets disseminate their work in a new form and touch and new readers. The expertise of Vidéographe in the field of media arts opens wide the door of new technologies to the current Quebec poetry.

Assuming that’s more or less the gist of it, that sounds pretty cool. And the videopoems are already available to watch on the website.

(Hat-tip for the second and third links to Thomas Zendegiacomo del Bel at the ZEBRA Facebook group page)

Poetry at the movies: “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” and “Endless Poetry”

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

There was news this week of two more feature-length movies in which poets and poetry play a leading role. The animated film Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is due to be released in North American theaters next summer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Animation distributor GKIDS has acquired North American rights to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, the animated featured produced by Salma Hayek that is based on the well-known book by Kahlil Gibran. The film, which was introduced at Cannes and made its North American premiere in Toronto, will be released this summer.

The film features a narrative story written and directed by Roger Allers with individual sections based on Gibran’s poems that were designed and directed by animation directors from around the world, including Tomm Moore (an Oscar nominee this year for Song of the Sea), Joan Gratz, Bill Plympton, Nina Paley, Joann Sfar, Paul and Gaetan Brizzi, Michael Socha and Mohammed Harib.

Its voice cast includes Hayek, Liam Neeson, Quvenzhane Wallis, John Krasinski, Frank Langella and Alfred Molina. The score is by Gabriel Yared, with additional music by songwriters Damien Rice, Glenn Hansard and Lisa Hannigan and performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

And the Chilean poet Alejandro Jodorowsky will sit in the director’s seat for a movie based on his autobiography, Endless Poetry (Poesia sin Fin), as Variety explains:

Alejandro Jodorowsky is set to produce and direct “Endless Poetry,” the continuation of his latest film “The Dance of Reality,” which played at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight.

A Chilean-French-Japanese production, “Endless Poetry” is a fantasy-filled autobiographical tale based on the last chapters of Jodorowsky’s book “The Dance of Reality.”


The film recounts Jodorowsky’s teenage years in Santiago, Chile, and chronicles his struggle to overcome family pressure and find his path as an artist and a poet. Jodorowsky emerged along with Enrique Linh, Nicanor Parra and Stella Diaz as one of the most influential poets of Chile in the 1940s.

“In my memories, my years in Chile had long been associated with suffering and loneliness… but today, at my 85 years of age I have not the least doubt that my encounter with poetry justifies my emergence in that country,” said Jodorowsky.

The producers are planning a Kickstarter campaign, to be launched on February 15.

Silliman reviews Howl

Ron Silliman has posted a review of the new film about Allen Ginsberg and his famous poem.

I saw the best exposition of a poem in a major motion picture, Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl, coming to art theaters starting on the 24th & also, I believe, available thru various video-on-demand services. Howl is also perhaps the only major motion picture I’ve ever seen that is, in both form & function, the close reading of a text. I have never seen a film based on a work of literature that even remotely approached Howl’s devotion to the words on the paper. If you’re a writer, or care about poetry, you are almost certainly going to love this film. Howl was made for you, with intelligence & more than a little cinematic bravery, and it shows. Howl is a wonderful motion picture.

It is a lot harder, however, to imagine Howl appealing to a broad audience. Virtually every word in this film comes directly from the poem itself…

…which makes it essentially a feature-length videopoem, at least according to the minimal definition I employ at Moving Poems. Do go read the rest of what Ron has to say. It sounds like a very exciting film!

Father’s Day videopoem by Chris Eyre and Dick Lourie


I don’t tend to post things to the main site which were uploaded by someone other than the copyright holder, but I don’t mind sharing this here. It’s making the rounds on Facebook today, and it’s been viewed 84,515 times, which makes it one of the most popular videopoems on YouTube. It’s a clip from the end of the movie Smoke Signals, directed by Chris Eyre. Sherman Alexie wrote the novel and screenplay, but the poem voiced here is by Dick Lourie, according to the YouTube notes. A little web searching turned up the text of the poem, which is titled Forgiving our Fathers.