The odd back of be­yond

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DONALDCLARKE

FURTHERBEYOND Di­rected by Chris­tine Mol­loy, Joe Lawlor. Star­ring Alan How­ley, Jose Miguel Jimenez, Denise Gough. Club, IFI, Dublin, 97 min With this creative re­fusal to shoot a con­ven­tional biopic (Fur­ther Be­yond ends with the open­ing cred­its to a film we haven’t quite seen) the film col­lec­tive Des­per­ate Op­ti­mists con­firm their sta­tus as dif­fi­cult blighters. But you would have trou­ble ar­gu­ing that their tac­tics are with­out prece­dent. There is some­thing of Lawrence Stern’s Tris­tram Shandy about the piece. Just as that 18th-cen­tury novel took end­less dis­cur­sions while de­con­struct­ing the form, Fur­ther Be­yond re­fuses to set­tle down and be a con­ven­tional doc­u­men­tary. It is of­ten frus­trat­ing. It is meant to be.

Dublin­ers Chris­tine Mol­loy and Joe Lawlor, the two ends of Des­per­ate Op­ti­mists’ pan­tomime horse, set them­selves the task of mak­ing a film on Am­brose O’Hig­gins (near con­tem­po­rary of Stern, in­ci­den­tally). Born in 1720, he lived in Sligo and Meath be­fore mi­grat­ing to even­tu­ally be­come cap­tain gen­eral of Chile.

But would it not make more sense to fo­cus on his son? Bernardo O’Hig­gins was a key leader of the re­bel­lion that freed Chile from Span­ish colo­nial­ism. There’s your story. Right? The Op­ti­mists ask them­selves that very ques­tion and can’t fully ex­plain why they’ve de­cided to fo­cus on the dad.

Not that much fo­cus­ing gets done. In the open­ing sec­tions, the film-mak­ers con­clude that the biopic is one of the gen­res that cause them un­ease. We then meet the two voiceover artists, one male, one fe­male, who will nar­rate the film. The man wor­ries about his billing be­fore dis­cussing the his­tory of his art. An older woman stands in for the ac­tress Sylvia Syd­ney, a Bronx-born ac­tress who was in the first film to ever use voiceover. The older woman is (or is an­nounced to be) the Bronxborn mother of Joe Lawlor (co­in­ci­dence?). So it goes.

We apol­o­gise for the un­sightly paren­the­ses, but no film this sea­son bet­ter suits par­en­thet­i­cal dis­cus­sion. Fur­ther Be­yond packs in so many di­ver­sions that you half-ex­pect it to groan with in­di­ges­tion. There’s some­thing here about On the Wa­ter­front. We hear mus­ings from Zen and the Art of Mo­tor­cy­cle Main­te­nance. It’s a small won­der the piece holds to­gether so im­pres­sively. It’s a larger won­der that it proves to be strangely mov­ing.

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