Archive for film

Black ’47

Posted in Beards, Film, History with tags , , , on October 14, 2020 by telescoper

The film Black ’47 was released in Ireland in 2018 (just after I moved here) but although it got good reviews I didn’t get around to seeing it in the cinema. Last Friday however it turned up on TV so I watched it and thought it was excellent.

The film tells the story of Martin Feeney (played by James Frecheville) who returns home to Ireland having deserted from the British Army, in 1847, only to find his native Connemara in the grip of the Great Famine. Witnessing the callous treatment of his people by landlords, their agents and the British authorities he sets out on a trail of violent retribution against the oppressors. In structure the film is very like that of a classic `revenge’ Western, though set in the Wild West of Ireland rather than America. It’s very well acted by a very fine cast and superbly photographed, grimly convincing in its depiction of the extreme deprivation of the time, with gripping action sequences. Among many other things, I was impressed by the realistic portrayal of the unreliability and inaccuracy of mid 19th Century firearms. The rifles in use by the British Army at that time were muzzle loaded, using paper cartridges, so their rate of fire was very low too.

There are some splendid beards too.

I’m sure there will be people to correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think there were any feature films made about the Great Hunger, despite its importance in Irish history, before this one.

Here’s the official trailer for the movie. I think it’s well worth watching if you can get to see it, though somehow I doubt it will be on prime time television in the UK like it was here in Ireland…

Storm Scenes

Posted in Film with tags , , , on August 19, 2020 by telescoper

Ireland, especially the South and West thereof, is bracing itself tonight for the arrival of Storm Ellen. It seems likely to reach Maynooth in the early hours of tomorrow morning but will probably have dissipated a bit by then.

Anyway, the thought of a storm battering the Irish coast reminded me of the memorable storm scenes in David Lean’s 1970 film Ryan’s Daughter. The film crew had to wait almost a year near the coast at Dingle for a sufficiently violent storm but when one arrived they caught its elemental power superbly. No CGI in these shots!

I love the long shots of the people scurrying like ants on top of the cliff. Their movement makes them look terrified. I suspect they weren’t acting.

Update: it was indeed a very stormy night. I was woken up a few times by the gales, and there are lots of reports on the radio of fallen trees and debris, but I don’t know of any serious damage here in Maynooth.

In the Heat of the Night

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , , , on July 1, 2015 by telescoper

It seems appropriate to post this, since today has been the hottest day since the last day on which temperatures were at the same level as today. It’s the opening titles of one of my favourite films, In the Heat of the Night, with music provided by the late great Ray Charles. If you haven’t seen the film then you should. It’s part murder mystery part social commentary and it won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Rod Steiger’s brilliant portrayal of Police Chief Bill Gillespie.

Unchained Melody

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , , , on September 30, 2013 by telescoper

You pick up a lot of interesting snippets listening to BBC Radio 3. Last night I was listening to a programme about  Alex North, a prolific composer of music scores, including one of my favourite films A Streetcar Named Desire.  Alex North also wrote a complete soundtrack for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and must have been mortified when he turned up for the Premiere and found that not a single note of the music he’d written was used in the final version. Anyway, one thing I learnt that I didn’t know before was that Alex North also wrote the tune Unchained Melody for a relatively unknown prison movie called, appropriately enough, Unchained. The song was a massive hit in the 60s for the Righteous Brothers, and gained popularity again as a consequence of the 1990 film Ghost.  It’s also been murdered by countless karaoke singers since then…

Anyway, here is the original version of Unchained Melody as it appears in the 1955 film. Knowing the background to the song (i.e. that the enforced separation of the singer and his sweetheart is because the former is in prison) makes it all the more poignant, and Todd Duncan (whose style clearly owes a debt to Paul Robeson) gives it a bluesy feel present in none of the cover versions I’ve heard…

Santa Sangre

Posted in Biographical, Film with tags , , on July 18, 2012 by telescoper

Having spent most of this morning talking about the past (to someone who at least is paid to listen to such boring stuff), I dozed off this afternoon and had a peculiar kind of dream which featured sequences of a film I saw way back in 1990. Strange how the unconscious brain plays with such connections. When I woke up I even thought for a few moments that I was back in 1990 again. Most unnerving.

Anyway the film in question is a neglected masterpiece called Santa Sangre (“Holy Blood”), directed by Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky. I’m amused that the wikipedia page for this movie is prefaced by a suggestion that the “plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed”, because the plot is so bizarre and convoluted that it would take pages of explanation to do it justice. Anyway, Santa Sangre, set in Mexico, and made on a budget of less than $800,000, is a kind of surrealist horror film, with a complex flash-back then flash-forward narrative structure, that revolves around the life of a young man called Fenix who grows up in a circus. Among a number of traumatic experiences he encounters in his childhood is that his mother has both her arms cut off. Later, in adulthood, Fenix and his mother perform a stage act in which he stands behind her and pretends that his arms are hers. It’s a moving and shocking image, just one of many in a film which is in turns bizarre, disturbing, offensive, violent, horrifying, funny, beautiful and utterly utterly brilliant. Why it’s not more widely celebrated I’ll never know.


Posted in Film with tags , , on June 2, 2012 by telescoper

Since it’s the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (60 years 59 years since her coronation on 2nd June 1952 1953; I’m grateful to fervent royalist Bryn Jones for correcting my error in the comments below), I thought I’d dig out something to mark the occasion. This is the opening sequence of Jubilee, by Derek Jarman, made to mark the Silver Jubilee in 1977. It’s hardly a celebration, however. In fact it’s a grimly ironic dystopian satire, in which Queen Elizabeth I travels forwards in time to 1970s London and finds a city and a society in a state of terminal decay. It was very controversial when it first came out primarily because, although the cast includes a number of punk icons, it’s as much an anti-punk film as it is anti-establishment. Over the years it has become something of a cult primarily, I suspect, among us oldies who remember what things were like in 1977. Anyway, do watch the whole thing if you get the chance. I think it’s brilliant.

Great Expectations

Posted in Film, Literature, Television with tags , , , , on December 29, 2011 by telescoper

I don’t make a secret of the fact that I don’t watch TV, and didn’t really do so over the Christmas holiday. However, I did catch the new BBC adapation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations which I think is one of the greatest novels in all literature. I wasn’t that keen to watch it, after seeing several pointless modern films of the story that didn’t do justice either to the original novel or to the marvellous 1946 film directed by David Lean, which I think is one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s not that I think people shouldn’t do remakes of classic stories – great novels can bear many different versions – it’s just that they’re often done with neither wit nor imagination and the end result can be so obviously inferior that one wonders why it was ever released. The recent remake of the perfect Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers, for example, was such total crap from start to finish it made me want to beat the director over the head with a blunt instrument.

In the end, though, I was persuaded to watch it and was very impressed indeed with the new version.   Douglas Booth, who plays the teenage Pip, as well as being an extraordinarily handsome young man, is also a fine actor. The young Pip’s encounter with the convict Magwitch (played by Ray Winstone) in Episode 1 was every bit as memorable as the older film, but I’ve decided to put the latter up here to encourage those who haven’t been fortunate enough to see the classic version.

I’m interested in suggestions of best and worst remakes….so feel free to add yours through the comments box.