April is National Poetry Month and a perfect time to watch films about real-life poets.
“Howl” (Allen Ginsberg) (USA, 2010)
“Howl” is a poetic tribute to one of this century’s best-known poets. Based on transcripts from the obscenity trial against the book “Howl,” as well as interviews with Allen Ginsberg, the movie intersperses scenes from his life with lines from the poem, illustrated with visually-compelling animation based on another Ginsberg work.
“Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Cycle” (Dorothy Parker) (USA, 1994)
Today, more people know Dorothy Parker for her witticisms than from her literary works. This movie could change that, showing the complexity behind a woman known for her cleverness. As portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Parker initially seems like just another quick-tongued character from a 1940s comedy, but as her unsatisfying love life unfolds, alongside a platonic friendship with Robert Benchley (Campbell Scott), her emotional depth emerges. Her poetry, recited throughout the film, provides additional insight.
“Bright Star” (John Keats) (U.K., 2009)
Taking its title from a poem by John Keats, this lush film directed by Jane Campion focuses on the last three years of the poet’s life and his romance with Fanny Brawne. Keats, played by Ben Whishaw, is aloof until finding love with Brawne (played by Abbie Cornish). Tragically, thanks to tuberculosis, the lovers would not have long to celebrate.
“Sylvia” (Sylvia Plath) (USA, 2003)
Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Sylvia Plath opposite Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes. The biopic is beautifully bracketed by their poetry, sometimes using lines from their poems to underscore the emotional impact of a scene.
“Bukowski: Born Into This” (Charles Bukowski) (USA, 2003)
Poetry is not always pretty. No one demonstrated this more than Charles Bukowski, the hard-living, crude-talking American poet. A documentary composed of interviews with those who knew him as well as extensive film footage of Bukowski reading and talking about his poetry, the film provides an unblinking look at the drunken poet.
“I, The Worst of All” (Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz) (Argentina, 1990)
A poetry-writing nun, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695), finds herself in the middle of a power play between a viceroy and an archbishop. While the viceroy praises her brilliance, the archbishop finds her poetry scandalous. Learn more about the life and fate of this poet who dared to write at a politically dangerous time.