FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place

The best film about an American poet ever made
By WILLIAM CORBETT  |  September 12, 2007
3.5 3.5 Stars
insideTRAILERS_Polis_olsoni
THE FACTS OF WORK: Henry Ferrini's film is a clear working vision of American literary figure
Charles Olson.

From director Henry Ferrini and writer Ken Riaf, Polis Is This is the best film about an American poet ever made. Given travesties from Hollywood’s Tom and Viv to actors impersonating poets like Hart Crane and William Carlos Williams in public-television documentaries, that is not high enough phrase. Ferrini and Riaf present the complex American literary figure Charles Olson (1910–1970) in a clear way by focusing not on the facts of his life but on the facts of his work.

Ferrini exploited the great advantage he brought to the project: he lives in and knows Gloucester, Olson’s home, and the polis and place of the film’s title. His images are a visual analogue to Olson’s words, lit by the bracing clarity of Gloucester’s incomparable light. Some of these images illustrate Olson’s poems, but they do so in a way that might naturally occur to any reader. The interview subjects — students, friends, readers — are wide-ranging. Harvard Professor of Landscape (!) John Stilgoe encapsulates Olson’s thinking brilliantly, and poet Robert Creeley illuminates his friend’s work by referring to Miami Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka. In voiceovers, John Malkovich avoids speaking Olson’s words like an actor. Olson himself is seen in excerpts from a 15-minute documentary produced by NET in the 1950s, talking in his kitchen, walking Gloucester’s slushy streets. “Polis is eyes,” he wrote, and Ferrini gives his viewers the eyes to see Olson in Gloucester.

  Topics: Reviews , Media, Poetry, National Football League,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY WILLIAM CORBETT
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   RICHARD BRAUTIGAN’S HIGHS AND LOWS  |  July 10, 2012
    Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) came of age as a writer in Beat Generation San Francisco, but he was no beatnik.
  •   JOE BRAINARD’S COLLECTED WORKS  |  April 25, 2012
    The sui generis artist and writer Joe Brainard invented a literary form.
  •   POEMS, PROSE, AND THE NEW YORKER  |  February 02, 2011
    After John Ashbery described Elizabeth Bishop as "the writer’s writer’s writer," reviewers repeated the witticism as if it were true. Actually, beginning with her first book, Bishop got awards and grants — that master poet politician Robert Lowell was in her corner — that gave her much more public recognition than Merrill's phrase suggests was the case.
  •   REVIEW: PHILIP GUSTON: COLLECTED WRITINGS, LECTURES, AND CONVERSATIONS  |  January 07, 2011
    If you are interested in the great painter Philip Guston (1913–1980), you will want this book. If you are interested in American painting from 1945 on, and into the future, you will want this book. If you enjoy a great talker in top form, you will want this book.
  •   REVIEW: DAVID YOUNG KNOWS WHERE HE'S GOING  |  October 27, 2010
    David Young's Selected and New Poems is a good book by a good poet. You'll have to take my word for that, because I am not going to quote from his poems.

 See all articles by: WILLIAM CORBETT