spacetime coordinates: Chile, 1948
Neruda is a 2016 internationally co-produced biographical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín, a fabulous retelling of popular poet and Communist Senator Pablo Neruda’s 1948 flight from Chile’s fascist government.
spacetime coordinates: 19th century Amherst, Massachusetts
A Quiet Passion is a 2016 biographical film directed and written by Terence Davies about the life of U.S poet Emily Dickinson. The film stars Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive poet. It co-stars Emma Bell as young Dickinson, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff and Keith Carradine. Despite its title, the film isn’t quiet.
“Goodbye to the life I used to live,
And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
Now I am ready to go!
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The carriage held but just ourselves –
We slowly drove – he knew no haste
And I had put away
My labour and my leisure too,
For His civility.
We passed the school,
where children strove,
At recess – in the ring –
We passed the fields of grazing grain –
We passed the setting sun –
Or rather – he passed us –
The dews drew quivering and chill –
For only gossamer, my gown –
My tippet – only tulle –
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground –
The roof was scarcely visible –
The cornice – in the ground –
Since then – ’tis centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity –
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me, –
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!”
spacetime coordinates: 80’s 90’s Compton, California, Los Angeles
Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 American biographical film directed by F. Gary Gray, depicting the career of gangsta rap group N.W.A. Titled after N.W.A’s 1988 debut studio album, the film focuses on members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre, and the rise and fall of the group. Members of N.W.A were involved in making the film, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre as producers, as was Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, while MC Ren and DJ Yella served as creative consultants. Ice Cube is portrayed by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., with Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. Paul Giamatti also stars as N.W.A’s manager Jerry Heller.
spacetime coordinates: 80’s – 90’s Brooklyn New York City // Las Vegas, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Notorious is a 2009 American biographical drama film directed by George Tillman Jr. that follows the life and murder of Christopher Wallace, an American rapper better known by the stage name “The Notorious B.I.G.”. The film stars Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, and Anthony Mackie.
All Eyez on Me (2017)
All Eyez on Me is a 2017 American biographical drama film about hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, directed by Benny Boom and written by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian. Titled after Shakur’s 1996 fourth studio album of the same name, the film stars Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Shakur with Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper and Danai Gurira in supporting roles.
spacetime coordinates: 1892–1973 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
In the Realms of the Unreal is a 2004 documentary film directed by Jessica Yu about American outsider artist Henry Darger.
An obscure janitor during his life, Darger is known for the posthumous discovery of his elaborate 15,145-page fantasy manuscript entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred watercolor paintings and other drawings illustrating the story.
The film’s style is atypical of a documentary. Because there are only three known photographs of Darger, and because of his reclusive lifestyle, the film is mostly a narrated biographical account, accompanied by animated versions of events from his magnum opus, which is also surveyed in detail. Interviews with his few neighbors and other acquaintances are included.
In the last entry in his diary, he wrote: “January 1, 1971. I had a very poor nothing like Christmas. Never had a good Christmas all my life, nor a good new year, and now… I am very bitter but fortunately not revengeful, though I feel should be how I am…”
spacetime coordinates: 19th century France – Brussels – Abyssinia
“The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable.”
Total Eclipse is a 1995 film directed by Agnieszka Holland, based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, who also wrote the screenplay. Based on letters and poems, it presents a historically accurate account of the passionate and violent relationship between the two 19th-century French poets Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud(Leonardo DiCaprio), at a time of soaring creativity for both of them.
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spacetime coordinate: 40’s > 90’s, Saint Petersburg > New York
When asked in an interview whether he ever intended to return to his Motherland, Joseph Brodsky replied: “Such a journey could only take place anonymously…”
The creators of this film imagined that the journey in question was undertaken after all, selecting the genre of an ironic fairytale. The poet sails to the country of his childhood, and with him we traverse not only geographical expanses, but travel through time as well; stringing together a number of facts from the Nobel Prize Laureate’s biography, we return to the USSR of the 50s and early 60s, soaking up the atmosphere of the “European” city of Petersburg, to this day Russia’s cultural center. Along with live-action sequences, the film features animation, as well as documentary footage concerning Brodsky and his milieu.
Some of the animated sequences — of winged horses and flying sleds, of Brodsky as a farm animal on all fours drawing a cart — suggest Chagall. Other, more elegant pictures — of pianos and other musical instruments flying in formation while framed against the heroic architecture of St. Petersburg — are closer to Magritte’s surrealism. Visually, it is an ode to St. Petersburg (its museums, architecture and statuary are lovingly photographed), and to the Neva River, which runs by the city.
With its unabashedly nostalgic glow, the film belongs to what might be called the “rosebud” school (after “Citizen Kane”) of film biographies that locate the essence of a life in childhood memories. Recurrent images in the film are visual representations of the family’s house cat. The youthful Brodsky (Evgeniy Ogandzhanyan) is shown conversing with his father in meows and later subverting the solemnity of a school anthem sung by a chorus by substituting cat cries for words. He later confides to a friend that he wants to be reincarnated as a cat in Venice.