That said, this week sees released on DVD two Irish movies that at the very least tried to shake things up for the indigenous film industry, although I’ll allow that I’m biased towards Anton (2008) because I know one of the producers. Still, for a movie that was independently made, and for a budget of around €500,000, it’s a minor triumph. To wit:
Ireland, 1970s. Returning home to County Cavan after five years at sea, Anton O’Neill (Anthony Fox) finds himself sucked into the Troubles that have erupted across the border in Northern Ireland. A political innocent, he becomes a pawn in the hands of ruthless terrorists, all the while striving to stay one step ahead of the hardboiled Detective Lynch (Gerard McSorley). With a baby on the way, Anton has big decisions to make – but he’s quickly discovering that sometimes it’s the decisions that make you. Made on a miniscule budget, Anton at times displays the kind of naïveté that bedevils Anton himself, and some of the dialogue is unforgivably clunky. For all that, and particularly given its humble origins, the movie represents something of a call to arms to the indigenous film industry, especially in the context of the series of more lavishly funded and abysmally executed Irish movies we’ve been subjected to in the last couple of years. Vivid cinematography and strong performances in the key roles make for a compelling drama, with Fox (who also wrote the script) marking himself out as a name to watch.Re-released this week is Adam & Paul (2004), which may well be the best Irish movie ever made. To wit:
Lenny Abrahamson’s Adam & Paul is a rough diamond that follows ‘dying sick’ junkies Adam (Mark O’Halloran) and Paul (Tom Murphy) on their day-long purgatory through inner-city Dublin as they try to beg, borrow, scam or steal the money that will get them their next fix, with only an occasional toke to take the edge off. If that sounds like a bleak prospect, then be assured that script-writer O’Halloran has read and appreciated Beckett for his combination of black despair and blacker humour: rather than wait around for the elusive Godot, our latter-day Pozzo and Lucky tramp the streets in a Ulysses-style odyssey, encountering various friends, enemies and (for the most part) people who veer clear. Abrahamson makes wonderful use of Dublin’s grimmer environs, O’Halloran has a wonderful ear for vernacular dialogue, and the central roles are excellently played, with Murphy just about claiming the laurels. Hauntingly dark and frequently touching, Adam and Paul is also hilarious: when the pair mistake a Bulgarian (Caramitru) on a park bench for a Romanian refugee, the enraged Bulgarian denounces Dublin as ‘a shit-hole’ on the basis that the city is full of “maniacs, liars and fucking Romanians.” Assured and provocative, albeit indulgently sympathetic to its characters’ addiction, this as good a film as you’ll see all year.