Carry on up the cosmos
is a silly, engagingly lowbrow, low-budget Irish comedy, writes Donald Clarke
HERE IT is: the controversial new Irish film from the Carney brothers.
Well, “controversial” is probably overstating the case. But Zonad has certainly divided audiences during its journey around the universe’s humanoid film festivals. For every punter who’s found the faux-alien invasion comedy hysterical (the trade paper Variety deigned it a cult classic) another has been unable to get past its relentless silliness. This writer laughed like a drain.
Before John Carney directed Once, he, of course, developed the influential TV series Bachelor’s Walk with Tom Hall and his brother Kieran Carney. Zonad adopts the same spring-healed rhythms as the series, but moves through altogether more barmy territory.
Zonad begins with a mysterious stranger – large in a red vinyl suit – waking up drunk in the living room of a rural family home. The Cassidys have just returned from observing an astronomical phenomenon and, naturally enough, assume that the visitor is from another planet.
He’s not. But, being the sort of layabout Simon Delaney plays so well, he rapidly realises the misunderstanding can be turned to his advantage. Before long, he is making investigations into “black beer” and persuading the town’s young women to submit (for scientific purposes) to a little gentle probing.
A wide variety of influences announce themselves. The wilfully deceived town has appeared in such contrasting works as Preston Sturges’s Hail the Conquering Hero and Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. The film’s cleverly sustained amalgam of tones – the locale is partly situated in 1950s US and partly near a madder Glenroe – suggests one of Channel 4’s Comic Strip specials from the 1980s.
For good or ill, Zonad is very much one of a kind. At 82 minutes the picture is short for a live-action feature and sometimes plays like an over-extended sketch. Though the team has used its spare resources cunningly, the limited budget does ask the audience (particularly if they’ve just seen Avatar) to make more than a few allowances.
However, consistently sparky performances from the likes of Donna Dent and David Pearce help the vessel sustain its singular trajectory. It’s certainly unlike anything else currently orbiting your multiplex.
Cheap as chips: Simon Delaney could get used to this alien wheeze in Zonad