In­ge­nious and deft por­trait of Hugh Lane

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - TARA BRADY

CIT­I­ZEN LANE ★★★★ Di­rected by Thad­deus O’Sullivan. Star­ring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Gemma-Leah Dev­ereux, Michael Gam­bon, Marty Rae, Derbhle Crotty, Barry Mc­Gov­ern, Ned Dennehy. 81 mins

The docu­d­rama, as fans of trash TV can at­test, is an unlovely thing that is of­ten hastily cob­bled to­gether to cap­i­talise on a re­cent death or up­com­ing wed­ding. Typ­i­cally docu­d­ra­mas cast some­body who looks noth­ing like Ge­orge Michael as Ge­orge Michael and fea­ture di­a­logue like: “I love you, Kate Middleton!”

By any rea­son­ing, Thad­deus O’Sullivan’s hy­brid por­trait of the art col­lec­tor and gallery founder Hugh Lane sim­ply shouldn’t work. The film’s mar­riage – or rather mé­nage – of talk­ing heads, artis­tic flâneurism, and his­tor­i­cal re­cre­ation ought to make for a scream­ing match, or at the very least uneasy tran­si­tions. But work­ing from Mark O’Hal­lo­ran’s fiendishly clever script, the De­cem­ber Bride di­rec­tor, along with dex­ter­ous ed­i­tor Mick Ma­hon, has fash­ioned a project as el­e­gant as its sub­ject.

Hav­ing scoured old let­ters and biographies, O’Hal­lo­ran has plucked out the choic­est (and of­ten cat­ti­est phrases) used by Lane and his Celtic Twi­light con­tem­po­raries.

Forget Drunk His­tory; this is Bitch His­tory, bril­liantly en­acted by such vet­eran play­ers as Michael Gam­bon (Lord Ardi­laun), Barry Mc­Gov­ern (Wil­liam Martin Mur­phy) and Derbhle Crotty (Lady Gre­gory).

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, hav­ing al­ready enlivened our un­der­stand­ing of Ir­ish his­tory with his de­pic­tions of PJ Mara and Pádraig Pearse, is a won­der­ful con­stel­la­tion of con­tra­dic­tions as Hugh Lane.

These ex­cerpts aren’t merely re­hearsals of turn-of-the-cen­tury ar­gu­ments. They make for both dy­namic, relevant ex­changes and mov­ing mo­ments. One un­der­stated, suc­cinct se­quence, wherein Lane has his es­tranged fa­ther sit for a por­trait, ought to be manda­tory view­ing for any­one seek­ing to em­bark on a dreary cra­dle-to-grave biopic.

The long-run­ning campaign to re­cover Lane’s be­quest of 39 paint­ings for Ire­land – in­clud­ing works by Monet, Renoir and Manet – al­lows this in­ge­nious film to po­tently in­habit dif­fer­ent cen­turies, as do gen­uinely fas­ci­nat­ing con­tri­bu­tions from his­to­ri­ans Roy Fos­ter, Paul Rouse and Morna O’Neill.

As ever, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Kate Mc­Cul­lough’s sense of space – and what some might call aura – is un­ri­valled. Hugh Lane Gallery is tra­versed with the same rev­er­ence and clar­ity that she brought to The Quiet Ar­chi­tect. Why hasn’t she been snapped up by one of the ma­jor fran­chises yet?

Make a date and mull over an aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing al­ter­na­tive Ir­ish his­tory.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Hugh Lane and Marty Rea as Wil­liam Or­pen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.