Dy­lan Thomas in fine form

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Gary Gold­stein

Gor­geous, evoca­tive and well per­formed, “Set Fire to the Stars” re­counts the week in 1950 when New York po­etry pro­fes­sor John Brin­nin (Eli­jah Wood) brought famed Welsh poet — and Brin­nin’s per­haps un­de­serv­ing idol — Dy­lan Thomas (Ce­lyn Jones) to Amer­ica to per­form in a univer­sity read­ing tour.

Although he’s warned by his men­tor, Jack (Steven Mack­in­tosh), that tak­ing a chance on the gifted if reck- less Thomas could tor­pedo Brin­nin’s aca­demic fu­ture, Brin­nin earnestly asks: “How much trou­ble can one poet be?” Well, he’s about find out — the hard way.

Thomas is a hand­ful, a self-de­scribed “hor­ri­ble lit­tle imp.” Volatile, sloppy and hard-drink­ing, yet of­ten ir­re­press­ibly charm­ing, the grandiose Welsh­man takes Man­hat­tan by storm, so much so that he’s thrown out of his ho­tel. The in­creas­ingly cau­tious Brin­nin then squires the health-chal­lenged poet (Thomas would die three years later) up to ru­ral Con­necti­cut, where the two spend a few fraught days at­tempt­ing to pre­pare for Thomas’ all-im­por­tant read­ing at Yale.

The lit­er­ate script by Jones and di­rec­tor Andy God­dard pro­vides a vivid snap­shot of the era, in­clud­ing the fussy world of academia and Amer­ica’s postWorld War II zeit­geist.

Chris Sea­ger’s black-and­white cin­e­matog­ra­phy is su­perb, as are the film’s pro­duc­tion de­sign, cos­tumes and score.

The film was shot en­tirely in Thomas’ birthplace of Swansea, Wales, cred­i­bly sub­bing for New York and New Eng­land. “Set Fire to the Stars.” No MPAA rat­ing. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 37 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hol­ly­wood.

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