Bright Star 2009 “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art” Inspired by Andrew Motion’s biography. Directed by Jane Campion. The film focuses on the last three years of John Keats’ life and his romance with Fannie Brawne. An admirer of his poetry, upper class Brawne (Abbie Cornish) flirtatiously pursues Keats (Ben Wishaw) who is, to society, an ‘unsuitable’ match. Realizing his position, the poet doesn’t respond until made jealous. With another suitor in the picture and her family shepherding the girl away, his letters build a bridge.
The young people fall in love, but Keats contracts tuberculosis. When his book sells, Fannie’s mother gives her blessing, but it’s too late. Campion sees to it the film is more than Hollywood pretty. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Heroes of Scotland: Robert Burns, The Man and His Legend Presented by Iain Cuthbertson. Jock Ferguson (who recites beautifully) as Robert Burns, proponent of national dialect, critic of conventional piety and hypocrisy. Reenactments with period imagery. Burns’ losing efforts to farm, loves and battle with the bottle. Illuminating. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Neruda 2017 Directed by Pablo Lorrain. In 1946, Chile’s president turns against the communists who supported him. Neruda (Luis Gnecco) and his wife flee, but are turned back. Delia (Mercedes Moran) returns home, the author goes into hiding. Despite danger, he has no lack of volunteered refuges. In order to find the celebrated author, young policeman, Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal), feels he must get to know him and deep dives into the fugitive’s oeuvre, growing to admire him.
Questioning Delia, Peluchonneau is made insecure about his own life. The policeman comes to an unexpected end, while Neruda flies to Paris. Fascinating, both in terms of getting a sense of the person and his countrymen. Well photographed. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Reaching for The Moon 2014 Based on the book Flores Raras e Banalíssimas (Rare and Commonplace Flowers) by Carmem Lucia de Oliveira. Directed by Bruno Bareto. In subtitled Portuguese. The passionate 16 year love story of alcoholic, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and Brazilian architect/landscape designer, Lots de Macedo Soares, creator of Rio’s Flamengo Park. Soares committed suicide in 1969. Visually grand, but crammed with surface events and information. Free with Amazon Prime.
Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder 2009 Directed by Christopher Felver. With Dennis Hopper, Billy Collins, Michael McClure… Arguably one of the midwives of the beat generation, Lawrence Ferlinghetti denies his inclusion in the group. As publisher of Alan Ginsberg’s Howl, he triumphed over obscenity charges giving the counterculture an open door to free speech. The popular poet founded San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore, a cultural gathering place to this day. Readings, clippings, interviews and footage offer a glowing portrait which, though perhaps one sided, has been earned. Watch with Fandor Trial.
Howl 2010 Written and Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. James Franco as Ginsberg. Don’t bother. Half the film is comprised of awful 21st century animation, all of it jerks around, Franco is a lightweight. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Ladies and Gentleman Mr. Leonard Cohen 1965 Co-Directed by Don Owen and Donald Brittain. The documentary is at first concentrated on Cohen’s work as a poet and novelist, then shows four experimental music videos. A sketch for early fans. Free with Amazon Prime.
I’m Your Man 2019 Directed by Lian Lunson. Based on a January 2005 tribute show at the Sydney Opera House interspersed with interview clips. Reverent performers take up much of the time, but the waterfall of Cohen songs is a treat. Free with Amazon Prime.
Top Bigstock photo: The Statue of Robert Burns outside the McManus Art Gallery Museum, Dundee, Scotland.