Wednesday, November 22, 2006
On Tuesday night I watched the Wind That Shakes The Barley, a movie with a message from the mind of wealthy Liverpudlian Ken Loache. The plot is set in South West Munster, during the last days of the Irish war for independence and the civil one which followed. The entertainment in Ken's socialist lecture was great and with a depth of imperialist realism marred only by the costumes and hairstlyes of a cast of 1920 Corkonian soldiers who looked like they'd just stepped from Brown-Thomas on Grafton Street, dressed and coiffered for a night at Lillie Bordellos across the way, rather than from cottages whose en-suit bog was outdoors in the hilly ground round Bandon.
The protaganist's pristine clothes and top salon hairdo's washed the versilimitude of 1920'ness from the characters in this outing; who would have made it a classic if the stylists who organise my comb-over at the 6 euro salon on Dublin Quays were working on-set and the thespians donned suits stocked at Oxfam instead of Versace. A full suspension of my disbelief was thwarted by razor edged tailoring and - not exactly the lack of bad skin and poor dental hygiene of 1920 Ireland - a health spa tone of flawlessness in the flesh I suspect was not as prevalent in the populace then.
I cannot imagine any of my Macroom forbears pitching up to Sunday mass after an hours getting ready session, with performance enhancing hairwash and control systems managing their locks and wearing newly purchsed bespoke suits, immaculately pressed so the overall look is suggestive of Keith Duffy and Ronan Lynch at a Westlife re-unification press-conference.
Apart from this minor satorial whinge Ken's vision ticked all the right boxes of a sensible art-form, which drew from the well of reality which created a filmic bouyancy whose wash furnishes the audience with some military figures and economic facts from an imperial relationship which is not fully over still. As the movie gives a general idea of what went on in a portion of what became the free state 86 years ago, it was successful for me as - like Ken - I was born into the tradition anti-imperialism.
Loache skillfully directs an energy of injustice into giving the entire class-system a near fatal hiding. He got across the ferocity and ill discipline of the black and tan para-military by having his rank of privates act like soccer-hooligan squaddies on cocaine, losing or off their heads at all times.
Military personell of the lower orders shout themselves deaf in a breadth of UK regional accents from Manc and Cockney to Scot, yelling their voices hoarse and sticking the verbal equivalent of a steel toe cap boot into "micks"; with the relish of a rabid pack of professional torturers - who bully their way through this flick and crash into scenes at random, in a permanent state of; bug eyed battle readiness and in a continuously aggressive "british" state of constantly going ballastic, bollocking and shouting orders at "paddies" in a way impossible for the natives sense of national pride to comply with.
This is political movie-making at its most sophisticated. Loach has had years practicing and crafts his message using a set of unambiguous historical conditions which allow him to use wide artistic license in the characterisation and plot itself, which is essentially an articulate screech broadcasting the position of Ken's anti-imperialit mind and world view, in a piece of celluloid that will help top up the love level for the Irish race in the international community.
The night before I watched a small Irish independant film - Intermission - with Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy, who played the lead in the Wind That Shakes The Barley and is the smoker in the photograph.
Intermission was written by Mark O'Rowe, whose 1999 stage play Howie the Rookie mirrored the brutal cartoon realsim in the writing of Mark Ravenhill's groundbreaking 1997 smash hit play Shopping and Fucking, which kicked off British theatre's short lived In-Yer-Face movement, the year Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction heralded a similar shift into the new ground of a beyond-realsim genre.
O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie is a narrative in two monologues from the character of Howie Lee and another from his mortal enemy Rookie Lee. Howie is a junkie scumbag who recounts his tale of catching scabies - the catalyst which leads us through a typical day and night of drugs and violence in the Dublin criminal underbelly. This play was the smash hit and critical award winner which brought Dublin scanger vernacualr to a global audience.
In Intermission we witness thug Farrell smacking cafe staff and duff up Kelly MacDonald from Trainspotting, in his role as a doorty scumbag and scamp with the bankable intangible "it" - around the time he made the porno, just before the rehab he did.
Colm Meaney mimicks the voice of RTE's General Gerry Ryan and gives a subliminal masterclass in piss take acting. His character is a maverick garda detective with a dirty Harry complex who dispenses his justice in bare knuckle straightners with scum who cross his path at work on the frontline of street crime. And he does so in a citizen field-marshal vibe Gerry Ryan exudes - on the radio when running the country - which Meaney nicks and has a giggle in. Colm takes Gerry's gravitas on a joyride to its logical edge and pokes the funny bone with his satirically spot on performance of moral outrage from a man bored with his work as the mid morning millionaire wind machine blowing forth a one of the people aura as he shares the wisdom of his mind with a nation, breezing from real-life horror to comedy yarns and yawning inside and in torpor behind the mask of mid-morning radio - keen to retreat and park his arse on the throne at Killiney and await orders from Bono on the hot-line phone - Hewson the shaded power pulling strings of both Gerry and Joe Duffy as one.