Ireland’s broad way
At the Irish box office, the golden rule is that comedy trumps darker subject matter every time, writes Tara Brady. But will your vote support her theory?
NEVER MIND the awards and the critical wows: once again the Great Irish Film Love Tester has demonstrated our undying love for broad comedy. This year, national patron saint Colin Farrell moved into the banana-skin sector with no little elan Fright Night and Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids became the indisputable boxoffice champ in the Republic, and The Guard became the biggest-grossing independent Irish production of all time. Budding filmmakers take note: The Guard’s high concept, folkloric antihero and potty-mouthed comedy proved an irresistible draw.
It’s not rocket science; most of the indigenous titles that have made mainstream waves – Man About Dog, Intermission, The Guard – are big, sweary carry-ons. Not to be confused with native black comedies. Put people on a train at gunpoint and they still won’t go to those. Don’t say it won’t happen. Have you seen the new begging laws?
Elsewhere, hot stuff coming through: that’s the official Irish Times health warning on Michael Fassbender. The actor straddling – and we believe that is the right word – the tippy top of the love tester may well make the Oscar shortlist for his performance as a sex addict in Steve Mcqueen’s Shame. An Academy Award would make a fitting encore to a year that’s seen Fassebnder play Magneto in X Men: First Class and Rochester in Jane Eyre.
In recent times Ireland has sunk manpower and money into European co-productions with little to show for it. Finally, however, the country’s questionable long-distance relationships have yielded gongs and festival hits in As If I Am Not There and the Cannes-conquering This Must Be the Place.
It’s nice to be part of the European movieverse when we’re not exactly the continent’s choice in other realms, but this year we’re really missing those smaller kissable Irish titles. Austerity Ireland calls for smarter, austerity pictures. Where have all the micro-budget initiatives gone when we need them most? The best things about Irish film have, in recent years, been found in tiny packages such as Once and His & Hers. Would it kill somebody to cook up a decent indigenous found-footage flick?
As if further proof were needed, 2011 demonstrated that if you want Irish audiences to say “ho hum”, give them a black comedy or social commentary. Like Adam and Paul and A Film with Me in It before, Sensation was the latest ill-deserving victim of the curse of the Irish black comedy. If you want even fewer friends at the box office, then by all means, start banging on about the state of the nation. It’s the golden rule of Irish movie products: shut up and don’t mention the housekeeping.
Seriously. For more than five years the Irish movie punter has carefully steered clear of films pontificating about, well, Ireland. So it doesn’t matter that Parked should have spoken to the masses. Darragh Byrne’s fine debut feature was greeted with the same chilly reception once afforded The Tiger’s Tail, Alarm and 8.5 Hours. Global economic meltdown and empty political promises are pre-recession rent agreements in April. But it’s worse that tumbleweed continues to blow across Smithfield Square. As long ago as last August, Curzon Artificial Eye Cinemas submitted the highest bid to reopen Ireland’s most Kubrickian picture house. So why are we still waiting for the doors to open again? Don’t mention the
housekeeping. all very well on the wireless but, in this country, folks have decided they’re not putting up with this sort of thing at the multiplex. The people have spoken. Again. Cinemas are for going to see Bridesmaids, not for speechifying.
Our biggest cold-fish turn-offs are costing the nation cold, hard cash, diddling us out of choice at the cinema and wasting valuable resources. Arthouse projects in Cork and Galway are stuck in various stages of development hell (we’re told that work is set to resume on the latter after a whopping 16-month delay).
At least in the capital we have the lovely Light House Cinema, right? Wrong. It’s bad enough that Light House operators Neil Connolly and Maretta Dillon fell foul of unrealistic