Set Fire to the Stars (2014) Movie Script

New York. Columbia. Cornell. Yale.
Boston, Harvard. Mount Holyoke.
Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago.
Iowa. Hobart. Florida.
Pomona. Santa Barbara. San Francisco.
You won't lose me to a ball game.
- I'm here and committed.
- Oh, please John,
we're in no doubt you're our man
to captain this ship.
Jack has told us all about you.
Jack I... I told them you were
a boy scout after my job.
Yale. Boston. Harvard. Mount Holyoke.
Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago.
Iowa. Hobart. Florida. Pomona.
Santa Barbara. San Francisco.
So, as incumbent of the Chair of Poetry,
how are you finding our students?
They have all the answers.
Read all the books and listened intently
but... sometimes it feels like
I'm teaching the same student.
And that's a bad thing?
New York. Columbia.
Cornell. Yale.
This man is a good writer.
What he doesn't know about
the written word...
Well, that's why I suggested him.
Look at you now, John. You have tenure.
It only took five years.
New York. Columbia. Cornell. Yale.
Boston. Harvard. Mount Holyoke.
Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago.
John and I met at Vassar.
I was Chair of the Editorial Board.
John ran a...
a kind of writers workshop.
I proofed his first poem in Helicon.
Boston. Harvard.
Mount Holyoke. Philadelphia.
Iowa. Hobart. Florida.
Pomona. Santa Barbara.
San Francisco.
Now, what of this visitor
you're proposing?
Now, I understand it's a little cavalier
to undertake a tour of
this scale in my first month
but the idea isn't new to me.
I've wanted to show him off
to America for an age.
So you're a fan.
I believe him to be the purest lyrical poet
in the English speaking world.
We're all a fan of his work...
Jack here tells me
your man has a reputation...
for 'roaring behaviour'.
Stories of pub-room escapades
that brought wives,
mothers and the London police running.
It is true that friends and colleagues
of my own in London talk of this...
Terrorizing events
and functions with his mischief.
Sounds fun.
Not when your job is at stake.
I think what the Dean
is trying to say is...
How do you propose to handle him?
I'll improvise.
Flippancy is the most hopeless form
of intellectual vice, Mr. Brinnin.
With all due respect, sir...
I am not naive to this.
Wasn't it Mark Twain who said,
"A lie can travel halfway
around the world
while the truth is still putting
on its shoes."
Get to the point, Mr. Brinnin.
It's just that the stories
we hear about him
this side of the world must be inflated,
otherwise how could they travel so far?
Yes, I'm excited and yes, I'm a fan,
but this is a great opportunity
for us all.
How many venues are booked?
Twenty-five so far.
New York. Columbia, Cornell.
Yale, Boston, Harvard, Philadelphia,
Washington, Chicago...
- Okay, okay...
- And more on the west coast.
We get it, Mr. Brinnin.
All hail, McBrinnin!
Thou shalt be king hereafter!
- They said yes?
- Yeah, no thanks to you.
"I'll improvise"? You son of a bitch.
I thought Loomis was going to
have a heart attack.
Congratulations, champ.
This is your moment
in the sun, go for it.
You know what the best part is?
We get to work together after all.
Together? What do you mean?
Easy, Ahab, you still get
to reel in the big fish.
I'll just be riding shotgun
once in a while.
You know, a kind of
part time confederate.
Lighten up. It was either that or have
the old man ride your ass like Sea-biscuit
I'll calm any stormy weather
and keep the old man off your back.
Stormy weather?
You know what I'm talking about.
You make him sound like a monster.
No smoke without fire,
that's all I'm saying...
Just be careful,
and if I can dare to say,
"Tread softly because
you tread on our dreams."
Thank you.
How much trouble can one poet be?
John? What the fuck's that maniac doing?
Get him off me.
Now you know exactly
what you've brought to America.
It would seem that
"the purest lyrical poet
of the English speaking world"
is plastered.
- What's he doing here?
- Come on, party's over.
I was just warming up.
No, I think you've had enough.
Let me take you back to your hotel.
Dylan, please.
I believe it's time to go...
And I believe in naked women
in wet mackintoshes.
I believe in the moon... the stars.
I believe in Third Avenue...
I don't believe in New York.
Jesus Christ, John.
You invite this lunatic into my house...
he broke my crock pot, John.
My crock pot. It's a Double-Dipper.
We can't have Harvey's crock
not working now, can we?
Good night, John.
Mr. Thomas, the pleasure was all ours.
- You're mad at me.
- No, I'm not.
Yes, you are, you're mad at me,
and embarrassed for your friends.
- I'm a shit.
- No, you're just drunk.
Excuse me.
I miss you.
We... We need fresh towels.
Are you okay? What's wrong?
Just my 'froth corrupted lungs'
It doesn't sound good.
Death isn't meant to.
Who was at the door?
The manager.
I didn't think this hotel
suited you anyway.
I'm hungry for something John.
Would you be a pal?
You are my pal, aren't you?
Would you fetch me one
of those milkshakes?
Oh, I... It's very late.
A big fat yankee-doodling
milkshake and candy bars and
chocolates and a comic of some sorts.
Would you?
Give me ten minutes.
You can stay tonight and tomorrow
then we have to change hotel.
It's very decent of them.
Dylan, I'm back!
I couldn't get you a milkshake but I...
I got you some candy,
I took the liberty of getting
you a 'Superman'.
Watch it!
Don't be angry with me, John.
Don't be mean.
I was lost without you.
- I have never been so...
- Pleased to see me?
So angry and upset, actually.
Let me introduce you to Mickey.
Screw you, fairy.
Please, my fully developed friend.
Be nice. We just arm wrestled for money.
Oh? How did you do?
I came second.
So... you're buying then?
My goodness. You're very strong.
Two stouts for me and my new pal.
That's the black stuff, isn't it?
- Eggs?
- You are going to love it.
But I don't need the...
To all the lights that guided us.
To all the women that guided our wrongs.
To the lost...
and the ones who still wait for them.
Drink, drink!
- Drink, drink...
- Come on, John!
I've always been strong. Like an ox!
We're pit men with dirty nails.
Chest thumping Neanderthals
with songs in our hearts.
Oh, Christ, I've got to put you down.
It would be at this time in the evening
at Browns, my local,
Dai Jenkins would shout
"Does anybody want a fight?"
Hey, buddy, keep it down!
Down, down?
I have enough trouble getting it up!
What did you say buddy?
Want me to come and break your head in?
- Well that's rich.
- That what you want?
Come and try it.
But I warn you,
with me you're out of your depth!
Isn't that right, John?
Where does it all come from?
The words.
From which spring do they pour?
- Don't.
- No one is that mysterious.
We're having fun, John.
Don't take it away.
- I'm not taking it away.
- Why do you have to ruin it?
Label it?
I'm sorry.
No, I'm sorry.
I'm a horrible little imp
who can't hold his friends
or answer his liquor.
Forgive me.
How much money am I going to make?
Enough, I'm sure.
I can go over the books in the morning.
Can I get you to a doctor?
That was quite a scene
at Harvey's last night.
Can't say I was surprised.
He was drunk, Jack. Over excited.
I dare say he was.
We should cancel tonight's reading.
No, Jack. Please!
There's nothing to say he can't perform.
I didn't bring him here
to go to parties.
No. No, we didn't, did we?
I hope you've got the stomach
for this, John.
I'll see you later.
Thank you, Jack.
Oh, Dylan, the last time I saw you,
you were an angel.
Now look at you.
There you go.
Such tragedy, such loss.
The things I could do
with you... for you.
Hopeless boy.
Be brilliant, boy. Try and be brilliant.
This is your final call. Five minutes.
Look after him.
Ladies and gentlemen,
please take your seats.
Tonight's performance
will begin shortly.
Are you going to make me do this?
- Everything okay, gentlemen?
- Of course.
Your audience awaits you, Mr. Thomas.
"If I were tickled by the rub of love
A rooking girl who stole me for her side
Broke through her straws
breaking my bandaged string
If the red tickle as the cattle calve
still set to scratch
a laughter from my lung
I would not fear the apple nor the flood
Nor the bad blood of spring
Shall it be male or female?
Say the cells
And drop the plum
like fire from the flesh"
Rest is obviously needed along
with a complete change of lifestyle,
starting from now,
if he's to have a fighting chance.
I'm a drunk!
- He knows.
- I know.
Have you contacted his family?
Leave her out of this!
You have to.
This isn't something you and I can fix.
Believe me.
I sent a letter on his arrival
but nothing since.
- Perhaps I should call.
- Yes, you should.
Doctor, we've major engagements
that start in a few days.
Important engagements.
I can't stop him, I can only advise.
But for now and until then
don't let him out of your sight.
New York is killing him.
It was a pleasure, Mr Thomas.
I'm a great admirer of your work.
Good night.
Dylan, are you okay?
Please come out, we need to talk.
Thought I'd find you here.
I took the liberty of collecting
your mail from your office.
I think that one's for Dylan.
It's from... Caitlin Thomas.
Congratulations, on this evening.
It certainly was a triumph.
Tickets have started to fly out.
Where's Dylan?
He's in the bathroom.
He's a little under the weather.
You boys.
Look, I understand your next reading
isn't for four days?
I'd have no bother setting up another
- venue before...
- No, no thank you.
It would be good to take the time
to prepare and work up to it.
Fair enough.
We wouldn't want to kill
the man now, would we?
- I'll see you in four days.
- Sorry?
At Yale, John. Yale.
My old Alma Mater.
I promised them a private reading.
I really don't want to mess that one up.
Again, well done.
You really have caught the big fish.
Something for me?
From home.
Your wife.
Lavender scent.
It's how she gets a grip on you.
Will you not open it?
Yale is in a few days.
It's very important...
New York City...
you brave bitch.
You certainly haven't disappointed.
Dylan... Dylan?
Christ! Don't do this to me, Dylan.
Don't you bloody dare...
Please, John.
- Reception. Hello?
- Please...
Jesus, John! What have you done?
What happened to Third Avenue?
Did the Reds steal it in the night?
Morning. We're in Fairfield County.
Forty-seven miles up the coast.
This belonged to my parents.
We used to summer here.
These days I don't really
make it up here.
Now it's a halfway house
for a dollar-mad nightingale.
We only have three days until Yale.
I need to make sure you're ready.
You make me sound like a prize bull.
New York wasn't... compatible.
- With what?
- With you.
I see...
Do I get a say in all this?
You heard what the doctor said.
He liked my work.
You know, flippancy is the most hopeless
form of intellectual vice.
Well, if that's a vice,
to hell with virtue.
What's for breakfast?
There's a store in town.
I'll get groceries.
Candy bars...
Tootsie Rolls, Baby Ruths,
Milky Ways...
We could be in 'Moiphy's' right now,
sharing a glass and a song
with international spies
and girls with names like candy bars.
And I'd be peeling you
off the floor and carrying you home.
As I seem to recall,
it was me who carried you.
If you're looking for whiskey,
there isn't any. Or beer.
Well you must at least have a couple
of showgirls stashed away somewhere.
Come out, lovelies!
Show us your milkshakes and I'll
sing you a verse of 'Sosban Fach'.
Dylan, sit down.
We need to go over your itinerary.
I've some ideas
for changing the recitals
to include works of other poets
like you suggested.
I can't do this. I need distraction.
You brought me here
and I'm looking to you
as a master of ceremonies.
Keep me entertained.
Can't this wait? Please.
I should warn you,
I was taught by my father
who was East Coast Amateur
Champion five years running.
You know something,
if this is so awful for you
and you're looking for distraction...
Why don't you open this?
What do I do?
You can't play chess?
- Why didn't you say?
- You never asked.
Okay, okay.
These guys upfront are your pawns.
Think of them as your linemen.
The other pieces behind are like
your quarterbacks and linebackers...
Talk rugby, boy.
This is all Greek to me.
- What does this horse do?
- It's a knight.
It looks like a horse.
Yes, I know, but it's called a knight.
When is a horse not a horse?
When it turns into a barn.
My eldest, Llewelyn, told me that.
He laughs every time.
It moves like this, in an L-shape.
What's your story, boyo?
You look like a spare prick
at a wedding.
I lost the real chess piece.
This little guy was a freebie
in a box of Raisin Bran.
He's been here ever since.
Fighting for king and queen.
And that's the king.
He must have some clout?
Not as much as the queen.
The most powerful piece on the board.
She has the goods to capture
every opposing piece in play.
The female of the species.
You've never met my wife.
You know, you really should
open that letter.
You should mind your own business.
The object of the game is to checkmate
your opponent's King.
That is, place him in an untenable position
from which he can't escape.
I know the feeling.
I can explain the finer details
as we go along.
But those are
the basic principles of the game...
Does that all seem clear to you?
No questions?
- Just one.
- Shoot.
Where can I get a hot pastrami sandwich?
That's one word for it.
Two Chicks on a Raft, wreck 'em!
Shingle with a shimmy
and a shake in the alley.
Zeppelins in a Fog, City juice,
eighty-six the hail.
Drag one through Georgia,
and a First Lady!
Hello. How are you?
- I'm a friend of John's.
- John who?
John Malcolm Brinnin.
Do you want feeding?
- A hot pastrami...
- No, thank you.
Ice cream, please.
- Two cherry cokes.
- And a Bourbon on the side.
Shoot twice from the South,
Drag 'em Wild and a Houseboat.
A shot of red eye.
We'll be playing this.
What is this marvel?
Do you like me?
Am I irresistible?
I must warn you,
I might break your heart.
Strange little foreign man.
With one stroke of her paw,
she was gone.
Don't mention it.
Jesus, is that you?
I've already outlived Jesus.
Why do you keep it? You look so...
Smaller. Half the size.
Yes... and prettier.
Yeah, prettier.
- It's a real shame.
- Incredible.
- What happened?
- Is every woman
in this pigsty of a town out to get me?
Hey, we were just saying, mister.
Yes, we were only saying.
Hello, Jack?
Christ, buddy,
where the hell have you been?
I've been looking
all over Manhattan for you.
The Beekman Tower
said you'd checked out.
Yeah. We were asked to leave.
Why was that?
There was a... misunderstanding.
You know how partisan
these Midtown hotels can be.
Something got lost in translation.
Between England and America.
Who said it was Dylan?
And he's not from England. Actually.
Come on, John. Come on. We had a deal.
You keep me in the loop
and I clean out your closet.
It doesn't need cleaning.
That's not what the
Beekman Tower concierge told me.
I understand the management asked you
to find quarters elsewhere.
- Which I have.
- Where?
Look, you know
how sensitive this is, Jack.
Tell me about it.
I've got Loomis
and the faculty asking questions.
You think that stunt Thomas pulled
at Harvey's party went unnoticed?
I'm trying to protect you, John.
I'm on top of this.
Sure doesn't sound that way.
Just give me some more time.
Yale is three days away.
I'm not an alchemist.
I can do this, Jack.
I can get him ready for America.
You listen.
There is a line in the sand
and you haven't stepped over it yet.
But I'll ask you again.
Where are you?
Please deposit ten cents for the next
- for minutes.
- John.
John, are you there?
Answer me...
At last. A couple of sarsaparillas
for the ladies.
And two shots of red eye for me
and my luckless comrade here.
Two Fifty-Fives and a red eye. Twice.
Give it wings.
The name's Rosie.
Oh, right, yes. Well hello, Rosie.
Whatever. What's your story?
If you have one.
I'm a poet... poetry professor.
This is my friend's
first trip to America.
I'm his Boswell. His amanuensis.
You must be a poet. You talk funny.
So who's your friend?
Dylan? Now he really is a poet.
A famous one too. From Wales.
Huh? Like Moby Dick?
Not exactly.
He is touring America reciting
his work and the work of others.
Poetry, hey.
Aren't you both... men?
Yes, isn't that funny.
I get off in an hour.
Oh, we'll be long gone by then.
Okay, Mr. Poetry. Make sure you pay.
Settle up before you go.
You wake early...
and you go out to work and you
get home and you go back out
again because you need
something for you.
And you repeat that...
You repeat that until something grabs
your attention and forces you to listen.
"I'm leaving."
And then you stop.
Everything loses it's worth.
It's meaning.
So you find a stool, and a glass...
sometimes an ear.
- You're welcome.
- And...
and you wait, I guess,
for the next surprise.
"The beauty of the world
and the paragon of animals, yet to me,
what is this quintessence of dust?"
"Man delights not me,
nor women neither."
I have to get this done I'm afraid.
It wouldn't be fair on the students
if I kept them waiting.
Did they ask you to do that?
Ha. They expect me to.
I'm head of poetry and creative writing.
"You tried to break my father
and I walked on.
My dreams became the collateral
of another boys dawn.
To a chorus of hopeless liars
I still walked on
Amongst the damned and the hungry,
Who share the same song."
If only they knew
their work was being read by you.
It's very moving.
Brave boy.
You don't just cough up
parents and dreams,
hope and shame easily.
And you certainly
don't scribble all over it.
I'm his teacher,
but please tell me something
that I could pass on to him.
That would mean a great deal.
You think I'm such a big deal.
There's no rhythm to it,
just an idea that's unexplored.
The first half belongs to
Robert Frost and the rest...
me, probably.
He's bullied by his own question
and rhyme,
but all this is easily solved
by confidence.
So if you want me to be helpful,
truly of use to this young mind,
then tell him Dylan Thomas
thinks he's great.
Don't do this to me, John.
I'm not ready for her. Not yet.
What if she needs you
- or the children...
- They always need me.
That's why I'm here!
I've overstepped the mark. I'm sorry.
I really haven't slept. Sorry.
It would mean the end of us, John.
- Dylan, where are you going?
- Walk.
It's good that we're doing this.
Clear our heads before the next charge.
It's beautiful.
I've a few ideas about the Yale reading.
Apparently the Provost
is quite a stickler for...
- Wish I knew more.
- Sorry?
The names of things...
plants, animals, clouds,
but the answers aren't there.
They were never put there.
I can't describe the jealousy
that bubbles up inside me when
people offer their knowledge on tap,
without asking.
- Is that a warning?
- Don't be so sensitive.
You're scared of your talent.
Oh yes. Terrified.
I knew it.
All your behaviour is just deflection.
From having to admit it's real
and precious and fragile.
No person could be so connected
to the earth and human spirit by chance.
It needs craft
and you protect that craft
by investing in the trivial
within strangers.
Am I right?
Dylan, what are you doing?
This is a pure way to travel.
That's not your boat.
- Are you getting in?
- No.
- Suit yourself.
- Dylan... no.
Jesus, Dylan. These are wool pants.
You'll have to keep your arms straight
and let the weight
of the oars do the work.
- You're very deft at this.
- Why wouldn't I be?
Sometimes I don't understand you,
and that's hard for me to admit.
You lose me in a haze of language
and imagery that often
- don't belong togeth...
- Kiss me.
- No.
- Take me to bed.
- Absolutely not.
- Then punch me in the nose.
Bloody my mind with your rage
and forgive me nothing.
Hold me tenderly as your friend
and keep my secrets.
- I don't understand.
- Yes, you do.
It's about feeling something
and allowing ourselves to feel it first,
before we tear it apart for answers.
Clarity and understanding are last.
So you write for yourself?
For everyone.
That's a big ask.
Nobody asked.
"Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon
I write on these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers,
their arms Round the griefs of the ages
Who pay no praise or wages,
Nor heed my craft or art"
Stop it, you mad man!
- John!
- John!
John, over here! Hello!
- Who are they?
- Hello!
I think it's the Hymans.
- Over here.
- Hello!
Oh, yes. It's definitely the Hymans.
- Hello!
- She looks a hoot.
- Hello!
- Hello!
I'm Dylan Thomas,
I'm a friend of John's!
We know. Hello to you!
Come to dinner tonight?
No, no... wait! We've not got the time.
- It's our last day before Yale.
- Please?
We'd love to!
- Eight o'clock?
- Sure.
Perfect! Perfect!
- Goodbye!
- Goodbye!
Wave, John.
Looking forward to you!
Oh, thank you, thank you.
- Hello, John.
- Hey, buddy.
- I got it. I got it.
- Sorry, we are late.
- What's this for?
- You kidding me?
It's the Marciano-La Starza fight.
I'm not missing that barn-burner.
Not even for Dylan Thomas.
This is my husband, Stanley.
Shirley and Stanley are both writers.
Stanley wrote, The Armed Vision:
- A Study in the Methods of...
- John, John...
Let's just say our main export
is books and children.
We produce both in abundance.
Can I please get a drink, John?
Thank you.
- Higher.
- Lower.
Hold it.
Look at us.
Like two spinster aunts at a prom ball.
Why should they have all the fun?
You call this fun?
Shirley likes to cut loose
once in a while.
Like Mount Vesuvius. I indulge.
How very catholic of you.
Not really. We all have our vices.
Don't you?
I don't have time for vices.
Dylan makes sure of that.
Up until four days ago, I thought I was
a Professor of Poetry in New York. Now?
I'm not so sure.
Benefactor, babysitter, nursemaid...
Jesus, you make it sound
like a marriage.
Like you and Shirley, huh?
Oh I wouldn't go that far.
There is a crucial difference, my boy.
Shirley needs me.
Come on, Boyo Rees.
- Your turn.
- No, no...
No, Dylan!
Come on!
America versus Wales. Put 'em up.
- Come on.
- Put 'em up.
Put your hands up, John. That's right.
Come on, try a bit harder. Put 'em up.
- John, try harder.
- You first.
Come on!
Jesus, John. What the fuck?
Are you crazy?
See what you did.
You can't make friends with that.
- I'm sorry. I didn't mean...
- Everyone stabilise.
Let's not get our
pantyhose knotted, gentlemen.
You okay, champ?
Sucker punch. He's bleeding.
It was an accident, Stan.
Blood seems to be
my main export these days.
I must have some alcohol out back...
Sit down, Rocky.
No one goes anywhere.
It's still cocktail hour.
Well, I hope you've got
a Chinese jump rope
or a stack of cards. Otherwise Stanley
will start talking jazz.
- A man needs a hobby, dear.
- Like a cat needs a bicycle.
I've got a chess set that...
John tells me
that you write horror stories.
A young boy, let's call him Jimmy,
is sitting in school one spring afternoon.
He's not really paying attention
to the class.
Hell, it's double math.
Algebra. Trigonometry.
You can't make friends with that.
Shut up, Stan.
Like a lot of kids his age,
Jimmy is daydreaming.
He's thinking of the World Series,
and sophomore girls in bobby socks
who look like Deanna Durbin.
With these sweet distractions
in his head
he absentmindedly looks out the window.
He notices what appears to be a picture
laying on the ground in the schoolyard.
He can't stop looking at it.
So much so, that after class
he goes and picks it up.
It is a photograph of a pretty
young girl in stovepipe pants,
all peppercorn freckles
and a smile as big as Texas.
She is holding up two fingers.
Like this...
She is the most beautiful girl Jimmy
has ever seen.
He is captivated.
He spends the entire evening
asking around town
if anybody knows her
or where he can find her.
But no one knows.
Jimmy returns home disappointed.
He lies in bed that night
staring at the picture of the girl
until he falls asleep.
Later that night he is suddenly awoken.
Something rapping on his window.
Tap-tap. There it is again.
Like someone throwing pebbles up
at the windowpane.
Looking out, Jimmy sees a figure
standing in the parking lot
opposite his house.
The figure steps into the streetlight.
It's the girl in the picture.
Jimmy's heart misses a beat.
He wastes no time and quickly
rushes downstairs to see her.
He races out of the house and...
He is struck by a car
while crossing the street.
Jimmy is killed instantly,
dead before he hits the ground.
So, the police investigators arrive.
They find a picture lying
next to the boy's body.
It is a photograph
of a pretty young girl.
The kind of smile that can
break a boy's heart.
And that, gentlemen, concludes my story.
Oh, except to say that in this photo
the girl is holding up her fingers.
Like this...
That's good!
That's bloody good, girl!
Oh, my boys would love that!
May I borrow your wife, Stanley?
She's lightning in a bottle.
Haven't you already got a wife?
Well, you know what they say,
one is company,
two's a crowd and three's a party.
Dylan, dear,
I do believe it is your turn
to entertain me with something that goes
- bump in the night.
- Happy to oblige.
But I don't think Stanley would approve.
Are we sitting comfortably?
Like biscuits and butter.
Has anyone seen my Pouilly-Fuiss?
I had three bottles.
It's your turn.
No, I don't... I don't want to.
Come on.
Let's see what a Harvard education
can bring to the party.
You must have a ghost story or two
rattling around in that loaf of yours.
Leave me alone, Dylan.
I can help you, if you like.
Once upon a time...
Once... upon...
What's wrong? Cat got your tongue?
Come on, John. I know it's in there.
A real horror to give us all
the gooseflesh.
- Once... upon... a time...
- Detroit!
Once upon a time in Detroit.
Michigan? You can't make
friends with that.
Shut up, Stan.
Go on. You were saying, John?
It was the hottest summer
the city had seen in over a decade.
They said you could fry a hamburger
off the sidewalk on Woodward Avenue.
I was 11 years old.
There was a kid in the neighbourhood
called Billy Levitt.
Had these two white mice he'd been
given from the school biology lab.
Samson and Delilah.
He carried them in a shoe box.
Took them everywhere.
I used to hang out with Billy
and his older brother Tommy.
We had the whole summer stretching out
ahead of us, but after two weeks,
playing stoop ball and skinny dipping
started to lose its edge for Tommy.
What was called for was a new form of...
Tommy did Samson first.
Cut off his tail with a bread knife.
We watched the poor thing
roll around on the porch.
It must've been another ten minutes
before the mouse was dead.
I can see Billy just standing there.
Fighting back tears.
The whole time watching.
I couldn't look at Billy.
We both knew what was coming.
Tommy said it was my turn next.
Delilah was all mine.
He snuck into his old man's room and
came back with a hypodermic.
Their father was diabetic.
He made Billy get some Drano
from the garage
and together we filled the hypo.
He even made Billy hold
the bottle steady.
Delilah could sense something was up
before I tipped her out of the box.
Tommy wouldn't let up.
He just kept pushing...
I knew there was no going back.
I popped her with the needle.
Pushed it all the way.
This mouse, this...
tiny little thing...
balloons up in my hand.
Like bubblegum.
Tommy was pissing himself.
Billy wasn't watching.
Not anymore.
This thing in my hand, it just...
splits wide open.
I'm frozen.
I can hear Tommy still laughing.
My face is wet...
And I start to realise it's not
just because I've been crying.
It really was hot that summer.
Well, bravo.
That's certainly a...
memorable little story, John.
If not technically scary.
Tell that to the mice, Stan.
I'm so sorry.
Let him go.
Seems I was wrong about this pigsty.
Who needs New York
when you've neighbours like that?
This place is hell on wheels. I like it.
How's your jaw?
I'll survive.
Though I may be reading
at Yale with a lisp.
Might make myself sound better.
What happened to those boys?
They grew up.
Billy moved west.
I heard he died in the war.
Somewhere in the Pacific.
There are times I prefer
the human race when it sleeps.
When we dream.
That's quite a romantic notion
for a dollar-mad nightingale.
Perhaps you should write about it.
Perhaps I will.
John Malcolm Brinnin.
Perhaps I bloody will.
Don't leave me to Stanley.
He wants to talk Mantovani.
Just give me a moment.
Shit. Oh.
What time is it?
Did I miss anything?
Oh, sorry, honey.
Let's have a drink.
You know, I had another bottle...
Take me home, Stanley.
- Hello boss-man.
- How's Superman?
He's super. I'll pass him on
when I've finished.
- Good night, Dylan.
- Good night... and John?
I am ready.
Yale, John.
Sleep well, yes?
Dylan. Time to get up.
You bastard.
Get up!
You're a hard man to get hold of, John.
You've had half the Upper
East Side looking for you both.
We were getting worried that John here
had shanghaied you off to Venus,
Jupiter, Mars...
No, just Connecticut.
Mr. Torrance, isn't it?
Mr. Thomas.
Once again the pleasure is all yours.
Gentlemen? Shall we?
"And death shall have no dominion
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind
and the west moon
When their bones are picked clean
and the clean bones gone
They shall have stars at elbow and foot
Though they go mad they shall be sane
Though they sink through the sea
they shall rise again
Though lovers be lost
Love shall not
And death shall have no dominion
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily
Twisting on racks when sinews give way
Strapped to a wheel
yet they shall not break"
So, how are you finding America,
Mr. Thomas?
Very big.
Especially when you have no friends.
Well, hopefully that will be rectified
here in Connecticut.
I understand Mr. Thomas's
next port of call is Boston?
- Isn't that right, John?
- Harvard.
It's an Ivy League thing.
Friendly rivalry.
Some of us might debate
the very definition of friendly.
Speaking as a son of Eli,
the 1935 Game left me
in traction till Christmas.
You were a Bulldog?
Last game I played.
Those Crimsons played rough house.
Two bust ribs and an open leg fracture.
But it was worth it. 14-7.
Boola, boola, boola, boola
A fellow poet?
You might have some competition,
Mr. Thomas.
Wasn't Gerald Ford assistant
varsity coach back in '35?
- He was indeed, sir.
- Yeah.
The Congressman's Congressman.
We could use some of that Bulldog
spirit in the House right now.
What do you think, Mr. Brinnin?
John here is a Cantab.
His Eli sympathies may be...
a little spare.
Well, University of Michigan, actually.
I did graduate work at Harvard.
Don't be hard on, John.
He's promised me the two things
I seek most from America.
What might they be, Mr. Thomas?
To meet Charlie Chaplin
and have a date
with an ash blonde movie star.
I take it he doesn't mean Lassie.
Do you have something to say,
Mr. Thomas?
at times like this,
I wish we were all hermaphrodites.
Why do you wish that?
then we could all fuck ourselves!
There was a girl called Alice
Who used a dynamite stick as a phallus.
They found her vagina in North Carolina
And bits of her tits in Dallas!
Oh, don't go...
I've got plenty more in the tank.
Perhaps another time.
I must excuse Mr. Thomas's
volubility in...
We're all grown ups here, John.
That's debatable.
A whore from Timbuktu
Filled her vagina with glue
She said with a grin,
"If they pay to get in,
They can pay to get out again too!"
There was a plumber from Leigh
Who was plumbing his girl by the sea
She said, "Stop your plumbing
Somebody's coming."
And the plumber still plumbing said...
"It's me."
This is better than Coney Island.
Who knew a poet could be so versatile?
Do you think Auden or Eliot
do this sort of thing?
Maybe one hula hoops
while the other plays trumpet?
You wanna see a versatile poet?
First, I'm gonna drink this
bottle of Scotch.
Then, I'm gonna look for
a bottle of vodka.
It's not that funny.
Yeah. Yeah, it is.
You want to know why?
You're not even a poet anymore.
Hey, don't shoot the messenger.
You made your bed. New vocation.
You're a sideshow huckster now.
With your very own circus bear.
Well, I guess you would know
about that sort of thing.
Is that how you danced for Loomis
and the school committee?
Turning tricks for monkey nuts?
Slow down, mister.
You forget who you're talking to.
Actually, I've been asking myself
that very question these last few days.
Who are you, Jack?
I don't know.
Just who the hell are you?
I'm the guy who could have
saved your ass.
But it is too late now, because your star
act told the Provost of Yale
to go fuck himself.
No, strike that.
The Provost, the Vice-Chancellor,
the Associate Vice-Chancellor,
Endowed Professors
and half the collegiate board
of governors. Yale.
Fucking Yale.
What? What's so funny?
To Jack. Good ol' Jack.
There is just one thing
I wanted to know.
What was your angle?
It's been bugging me.
Professional jealousy?
Proving inadequacy on my part?
Did you want the
sponsorship money for yourself?
What is it?
Or, or... another paternity suit?
Damn! Those cheerleaders...
You faggot.
Get over it. You're done.
Poor John.
I did warn you.
Hold on to the straps, kid.
When I'm done,
you're going to be teaching Mother Goose
to Polak kids up in Greenpoint.
She was a fishmonger
and it was no wonder
As were her mother and father before
They both wheeled
their barrows through streets
Broad and narrow,
crying cockles and mussels
Alive a-live-oh
Alive a-live-oh alive a-live-oh
Crying cockles and mussels
alive a-live-oh
She was...
She died of a fever
No one could relieve her
And that was the end of sweet...
The ghost wheeled her barrow...
Through streets...
Let's go.
We're home. Casa Brinnin.
- Was I asleep long?
- Enough.
You slept enough.
We made a holy show last night.
Did we?
It's probably spread like a bush fire
across every East Coast campus.
Fuck them in the eye, John.
And the ear, we were drunk.
Any person with a beating heart
could see and understand that.
If not, they don't matter.
Jack's probably at breakfast
with Loomis now.
Sharing his political... take.
I can feel them laughing at me.
I'll pack my things on Monday.
Say fuck, John.
Say arse and shit
and kick those ghosts out of your bed.
I wouldn't worry.
No, you wouldn't, would you!
And you dropped this.
You dropped it three times last night.
And you accuse me of being scared.
No, you don't!
If you're ready?
Fuck. Ass. Shit.
If only you took this long
in the bedroom to open me up.
Little man.
Half man.
Crumpled boy.
What gives you courage now,
my curious child?
What woman has left her scent on you,
her dirty stain, that's given you
courage to come back to me?
There's only you...
You've left holes.
Holes that need to be filled,
my little cherub,
my angel eyed demon.
Holes in our children's stomachs.
They're starving.
Starving in a way a child
should never be made to starve.
They're starving!
Holes in our home which were once
stuffed full with your shapeless body.
And holes in me,
holes that I've tried to fill,
with drink...
and words...
and reason...
little food...
and the odd land craving sailor.
You know I'm spoiled.
Why do you need me so?
This is it...
This is how it has to be
until we devour each other.
Until we are set free.
You had to come.
You had to come here, didn't you?
You're not finished yet.
Dylan! Where are you?
Where did you go?
Can I get you anything?
What a woman!
What a ground shaking
celestial furnace of a creature.
"Come back to us our angel
of rhyme and life giver." Ha!
She's a better writer than me,
always has been.
Look at her penmanship?
And those thighs!
I can't waste anymore time.
- Waste?
- The Boston train's tomorrow,
early, mustn't be late.
Prepared, be prepared.
I'll pack now. Come on, John.
Waste your time?
There is nothing left
you can take from me, is there?
I'm empty.
You have gorged on my heart
and mind and left me nothing.
- Take it easy, John.
- You selfish vampire!
What did that woman say?
My wife, John!
It's none of your business.
What did she say that awoke you
from your dream?
I need to know.
What is it she can scribble down...
- Stop it, John.
- In her violent
cheap-hand that eclipses
my entire being.
- Stop it!
- That bitch!
I'm sorry, I'm sorry!
Sorry I wasn't enough for you.
You were never meant to be.
There is no secret, John.
No Holy Grail.
Just what's in front of all of us.
Don't open a book.
Open a window.
"A stranger has come
To share my room in the house
not right in the head
A girl mad as birds
Bolting the night of the door
With her arm her plume
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house
with entering clouds
Yet she deludes with walking
the nightmarish room
At large as the dead
Or rides the imagined oceans
of the male wards
She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light
Through the bouncing wall
Possessed by the skies
She sleeps in the narrow trough
yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn
thin by my walking tears
And taken by light in her arms
at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision
that set fire to the stars"
Once you get to Boston
there will be a driver waiting.
Their Dean wants to introduce you
and you're committed to two 20-minute sets.
I'll let them know about
your travel arrangements in the morning.
Thank you.
I have taken the liberty of advancing you
money for the next two weeks
and have portioned
some into an envelope for home.
Perhaps you can wire it to Caitlin?
Thank you, John.
I now know what you mean
when you say it is about feelings.
Let's get you to the station.
So you can terrorise somebody else.
"Now as I was young
and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house
and happy as the grass was green
The night above the dingle starry,
time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes
And honoured among wagons
I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly
had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light"