Was full of those os­ten­ta­tious vis­ual quirks that tell you more about the film’s maker than about its sup­posed sub­ject

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

Acult of per­son­al­ity has al­ways sur­rounded psy­chi­a­trist Ivor Browne, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for any­one un­fa­mil­iar with his ther­apy to as­cer­tain what ex­actly he does for his pa­tients. I was cer­tainly none the wiser af­ter watch­ing the 90-minute doc­u­men­tary, Meet­ings with Ivor (RTÉ1), in which we saw the now 88-yearold in ses­sion with a suc­ces­sion of celebrity clients and ad­mir­ers.

Not that I was sur­prised at learn­ing so lit­tle. This, af­ter all, was “An Alan Gilse­nan film” (it said so in the open­ing cred­its, in the man­ner of “A Jean-Luc Go­dard film” or “A Quentin Tarantino film”) and it was full of those os­ten­ta­tious vis­ual quirks that tell you more about the film’s maker than about its sup­posed sub­ject.

So Browne can’t be blamed for the piece­meal na­ture of this pos­tur­ingly rev­er­en­tial pro­file, from which we gleaned next to noth­ing about his the­o­ries or meth­ods, be­yond the fact that he has es­poused the use of drugs in treat­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional trau­mas and be­lieves that pa­tients must be helped to un­lock their own demons rather than be “treated” or “cured” in the tra­di­tional man­ner.

How he does this, though, wasn’t ex­plained in a film that spent much of its time show­cas­ing sessions with such lu­mi­nar­ies as co­me­dian Tommy Tier­nan, singer Mary Cough­lan, novelist Se­bas­tian Barry, play­wright Tom Mur­phy and jour­nal­ist Nell McCaf­ferty — the last-named be­rat­ing Browne for be­ing a male chau­vin­ist, though you could see she didn’t re­ally mean it and Browne him­self chuck­led away at her grand­stand­ing an­tics like a tol­er­ant un­cle with a cheeky child.

At the end a young woman who wasn’t a celebrity said that Browne’s treat­ment of her trauma “gave me back con­trol over every­thing”, though you never learned what this treat­ment en­tailed in a film that was far too pleased with it­self (and the par­tic­i­pants with them­selves) to bother with con­vey­ing ba­sic in­for­ma­tion.

How­ever, the treat­ment meted out in the first episode of Quacks (BBC2) was both un­mis­take­able and ex­plicit — a leg sawn off near the out­set and a tra­cheotomy per­formed just be­fore the end. Did I men­tion that Quacks isa com­edy se­ries? Well, it is if you de­fine com­edy as some­thing that elic­its the oc­ca­sional tit­ter rather than any out­right laughs.

Here Rory Kin­n­ear plays a dash­ingly up-him­self Vic­to­rian sur­geon who per­forms flam­boy­ant pub­lic op­er­a­tions while his ne­glected wife lusts af­ter his clue­less best friend.

It’s hard to see what James Wood, who also cre­ated the so-so Rev, is aim­ing at here, though it might de­velop a tone of its own, es­pe­cially if it gives more screen time to Ru­pert Everett, who was splen­didly ar­ro­gant as the hos­pi­tal boss.

The Mur­der of Roger Ack­royd was one of Agatha Christie’s most cel­e­brated mys­ter­ies, though it oc­ca­sioned Ed­mund Wil­son’s fa­mous es­say ‘Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ack­royd?’ in which the great Amer­i­can critic de­clared his dis­dain for crime nov­els that were based on the me­chan­ics of plot rather than rev­e­la­tions of character.

That’s what makes most of them un­mem­o­rable (pick up old thrillers, and you usu­ally can’t re­call if you’ve read them be­fore) and it’s what I felt while watch­ing I Know Who You Are (BBC4), which came to the end of its five­week run last week­end.

This Span­ish se­ries was bril­liantly plot­ted, with twists and turns that kept you watch­ing, yet it was all about plot and de­spite a rivet­ing cen­tral per­for­mance from Francesc Gar­rido, you didn’t re­ally care about any of th­ese peo­ple — in the way that you care even about vil­lain­ous characters in Fargo or Happy Val­ley or Bet­ter Call Saul. And so even though the se­ries ended on a cliffhanger, with more episodes soon to come, I found my­self not car­ing what fresh twists the scriptwrit­ers have con­jured up for fu­ture view­ing.

Nor, af­ter its first episode, did I care how Valkyrien (Chan­nel 4) might de­velop. Much­hyped in pre-pub­lic­ity, this Nor­we­gian se­ries had a some­what bonkers premise — dis­af­fected medic sets up sur­gi­cal theatre in dis­used metro sta­tion where he funds his dy­ing wife’s treat­ment by tak­ing on crim­i­nal clients — and went nowhere in­ter­est­ing with it.

How­ever, those who thought oth­er­wise can binge-watch the en­tire se­ries on Chan­nel 4’s dig­i­tal off­shoot, All 4.

Mean­while, Fran­cis Bren­nan’s Grand Viet­namese Tour (RTÉ1) came to an end, its 12 par­tic­i­pants rav­ing about their host and about the bril­liant time they’d all had. That was nice to hear, even though ev­i­dence of their great time must have been left on the cut­ting-room floor be­cause what the viewer mostly heard was whinge­ing about heat, food and var­i­ous other dis­com­forts.

Even the host wasn’t averse to grip­ing, dis­miss­ing a huge float­ing mar­ket as “like Tesco on water” and yelling at a pass­ing boat that was play­ing mu­sic “Turn that thing off! Ter­ri­ble!” I’d have liked to hear the boat­man’s view.

Viet­nam’s ge­og­ra­phy and his­tory fared no bet­ter than its in­hab­i­tants. “What do you know about the Mekong Delta?” Fran­cis asked stu­dent So­phie as they were about to em­bark on it. “Noth­ing”, she replied. “Did you even hear of it?” he asked. “No”, she said. I give up.

No space, alas, to talk about three ex­cel­lent doc­u­men­taries. North Korea: Mur­der in the Fam­ily (BBC2) con­cerned the killing of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur air­port last Fe­bru­ary and the two young women who were duped into tak­ing the fall for it. Sto­ryville: Out of Thin Air (BBC4) was about a dread­ful mis­car­riage of jus­tice in Ice­land.

And Seven Days in Sum­mer: Countdown to Par­ti­tion (BBC2) con­cerned the calami­tous di­vi­sion of In­dia in 1947. Catch them if they come up again.

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