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directed by Andy Goddard
UK 2014


Having just received tenure, chair of poetry John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood, THE ICE STORM) takes a major career risk in applying for sponsorship funds to conduct a twenty-five city tour of the country with Irish poet Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones, CASTLES IN THE SKY) despite faculty misgivings about his "roaring behavior." John secures approval of the board with the help of ladder-climbing colleague Jack (Steven Mackintosh, PRIME SUSPECT) who will be looking over his shoulder during the tour. As soon as Brinnin asks "How much trouble could one poet be?" he discovers that the "purist lyrical poet in the English-speaking world" is indeed a boozing, raving, woman-chasing, crockpot-busting manchild who needs to be scrubbed of his own urine and prevented from choking on his own vomit in his sleep. After Thomas barely makes it through his New York engagement, John discovers that the poet is suffering from tuberculosis and his current lifestyle is killing him. With an important engagement at Jack's alma mater Yale coming up, John spirits Thomas away to his family's old cabin ostensibly to clean him up and prepare him for the next venues, but also to probe the poet's mind to understand the source of his inspiration. Blocked and resenting John's attempts to analyze his talent - and pressing him to read a letter from his estranged wife Caitlin (Kelly Reilly, EDEN LAKE) - Thomas seeks distraction in junk food, comic books, and John's odd neighbors (including "The Haunting of Hill House" author Shirley Jackson [Shirley Henderson, TRAINSPOTTING] and her husband Stanley Hyman [Kevin Eldon, HUGO]), but John starts to realize that the poet is not just sick but deeply haunted.

Based on the non-fictional novel "Dylan Thomas in America" by the real-life Brinnin - and already adapted for the UK television the same year as this feature under the title A POET IN NEW YORK (in which Jones played theatrical producer Felix Gerstman) - or, at least, part of it since the film only concerns itself with the seemingly eventful period surrounding the first three stops in Thomas' tour, SET FIRE TO THE STARS is alternately alluring and self-importantly arty. Jones - who made almost no impression as the comic relief tech guy on the police procedural series JO - embodies Thomas, reciting his poems as if they were his own and conveying the tortured soul before one can tire of his "don't be mad at me" whining. Wood - chasing a tubercular id around New England - seems like the weak link here with all of the affectations of performance familiar from other roles, although he is surrounded by interesting supporting performers like Mackintosh, Eldon, and particularly Richard Brake (HANNIBAL RISING). In her short screentime, Reilly's Caitlin Thomas is chilling as a reproachful specter voicing the words of the letter Thomas has tried to avoid reading ("If only you took this long in bed to open me up"), just about making up for the forced spaciness of Henderson's Shirley Jackson (who was certainly eccentric but probably not this quirky). It might have been learned more about Brinnin, who withdrew from his tenured post and from poetry altogether after the publication of his book (although he would subsequently write a number of scholarly works on other poets as well as a few travelogues).

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 12 June 2015 (USA)

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DVD Review: Strand Releasing - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Strand Releasing

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:36:42

2.40:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.47 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digitlal 5.1
Subtitles English SDH, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Strand Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.40:1

Edition Details:
� Deleted Scenes (with 'Play All' option; 10:50):
� - 'Breakfast' (16:9; 2:29)
� - 'Chess' (16:9; 2:40)
� - 'Horror Stories' (16:9; 2:49)
� - 'For John' (16:9; 2:53)
� Poems:
� - 'Love in the Asylum (Video Edit)' (16:9; 1:33)
� - 'If I Were Tickled by the Rub of Love' (16:9; 3:02)
� - 'In My Craft, or Sullen Art' (16:9; 0:47)
� - 'And Death Shall Have No Dominion' (16:9; 1:43)
� - 'Gruff in Metropolis' (16:9; 3:58)

DVD Release Date: July 21st, 2015

Chapters 8





Strand Releasing gives their progressive, anamorphic transfer a mid-range bitrate transfer that seems to be as high as possible while making room for the extras. The image is generally strong with the usual edge enhancement from the encoder's downscaling rather than effort to sharpen the picture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio nicely renders the unpredictable sound design with mostly front-oriented dialogue scenes, sparse atmosphere in the surrounds along with music and some surprises in the surrealistic sequences. The optional English subtitles do a good job of transcribing the dialogue.

Extras include some short deleted scenes including extensions and variations, as well as readings of Thomas' poems, a trailer for the film, and previews for other Strand titles.

  - Eric Cotenas


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