Pastoral bawdy is not, perhaps, the most persuasive mode of drama for a modern audience, but it is nevertheless the milieu into which viewers are plunged for the majority of “Under Milk Wood,” Kevin Allen’s cinematic reimagining of Dylan Thomas’ multi-character radio play. release in October, meanwhile, was confined to a single screen.) The film reps a reunion for Swansea-based Allen and his “Twin Town” star, Rhys Ifans — an element of likewise limited appeal outside Wales.Thomas fans with an appetite for endless scenes of hearty romping featuring regrettably song-prone villagers will have little cause for complaint, but commercial potential will be otherwise restricted beyond the film’s home turf. The submission of a simultaneously (and identically) shot Welsh translation as Blighty’s bid for the foreign-language film Oscar belies the pic’s minor status as a local curiosity.Dramatizing Thomas’ posthumously performed and published “play for voices” for the big screen wasn’t exactly a walk in the park even in 1972, with the live-wire talents of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole at the disposal of director Andrew Sinclair.
The humor in “Under Milk Wood” hasn’t weathered the passing of the years well: Of all genres, comedy tends to age least gracefully, and what once would have played as risque now seems more mundane.
By the standards of 1950s media, “Under Milk Wood” is daringly earthy.
Borrowing lines from a piece the 17-year-old Thomas wrote for his school magazine, and later augmented with material from his 1940s short story “Quite Early One Morning,” it must have seemed a breath of fresh air when first performed on BBC radio in 1954.
Drawing as much on Chaucer as it does on Freud, the celebrated piece has never been what you’d describe as an obvious candidate for a film adaptation, but the success of various stage versions seems to have sustained its legacy.
For a contemporary audience, its furtive thrustings are rather more quaint, but it’s less of an issue in print or audio, where we can more easily make the imaginative leap backward in time.