Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Now on DVD and a "must" for poetry lovers -- A FANATIC HEART: Bob Geldof on W.B. Yeats

Those who love the poems of W. B. Yeats -- is there anyone who truly cares about poetry that could not? -- will make a bee-line for the Irish documentary, A FANATIC HEART: Bob Geldof on W.B. Yeats (produced, I believe, for television) that made its debut back in 2016 and is finally reaching our shores in a three-disc DVD package (two DVDs and one CD) via MVD Visual. Here you will get not only a good deal of the poetry but also the history, personality and character of Yeats, as well as a grounding regarding the poet's contribution to the making of modern Ireland.

As directed by Gerry Hoban (shown at left) and written by Roy Foster and Bob Geldof (the latter of whom, shown above, acts as our guide and narrator), this 100-minute documentary may not offer reams of new information to Yeats scholars, but for those of us who know his poetry but not that much about his life nor how it plays into the slow and sometimes fiery creation of an Ireland that is still evolving, the film should be eye-opening, thought-provoking and mind-expanding.

History and poetry, together with character, carnality, mysticism and politics have seldom come together in such a surprising and bracing manner. Best of all, perhaps, is how Geldof and company are able to give us Yeats the great poet and Yeats the bumbling, foolish man (both are pictured below),

without in any way demeaning either. As I guess we ought to know by now -- and as the life here makes abundantly clear -- great art often comes from anything-but-great human beings.

Granted, we must remember that this was a life lived over a century ago. Still, this one -- filled as it was with everything from a ridiculously lengthy unrequited love and coming-of-age sexually (if perhaps ever?) at a very advanced age to a bizarre reliance on seances, horoscopes and oh-god-so-much-more -- may have your jaw drops further and further as this documentary moves along. What a wild and crazy guy! And yet: There are those poems.

Reading them to us are about as fine array of Irish actors and writers as you'll find under one roof (or film). From Stephen FryEdna O'Brien and Liam Neeson (above, and the greatest living voice we now have, I believe) to Colin Farrell (below), Dominic West (who reads perhaps Yeats' greatest work, The Second Coming, which is suddenly timely all over again, thanks to Donald Trump) and Richard E. Grant (who tears up so beautifully, unexpectedly and yet appropriately as he reads a certain line), the list goes on and on, and their readings will have you going back again, very likely as soon as possible, to the source.

We also get some time spent with the film's co-writer Foster (as well as historian and Yeats biographer), below, who, along with Geldof, fills us in on the history and politics of the poet's time. And though what we're told, I think, comes rather strongly from Geldof's ideas and viewpoint, I must say that the fellow makes awfully good sense most of the time.

Yeats' own ideas and feelings about Ireland and what it could and should become are seen here within the history of his time that includes Lady Gregory, the Abbey theatre and J. M. Synge, as well as the poet's unrequited love, Maud Gonne, below.

As Geldof (at left, below, with Van Morrison) muses along the way, this man, who wrote such fine poems of love, may never have really understood the deeper meaning of that word at all. Even so, our narrator's final thoughts about Yeats and what Ireland has become, will very probably bring tears to your eyes. They did to mine. And I'm not even Irish. 

From MVD Entertainment Group, this enormous three-disc set features the documentary, a bonus disc full of extras, and a CD of readings of the poet's work, some of which has been set to music. In all there are nearly three hours of extras here, only a bit of which I've had time for -- as of the posting of this review. The package hits the street this Friday, February 9 -- for purchase (and I would hope) rental, too.

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