Friday, January 27, 2012

Film Pairing — When Irish Lies Are Beguiling

Nearly fifty years ago, when I had Broadway dreams, I performed in a one-act play by Irish playwright Sean O’Casey on a small stage at Indiana University. The play was End of the Beginning, the name foreshadowing my career in the theater, or was that beginning of the end? O’Casey wrote a terrifically funny play, totally preposterous, full of physical comedy, and yet, in a way only the Irish can do, it is completely seductive story telling.

Here are two Irish films. One is brutal and totally preposterous while also being terrifically funny. The second is not quite as preposterous though equally brutal; but the blend of darkness and comedy is exactly right.

A Film With Me In It is a farce. It would have worked on stage very well. A bumbling out-of-work actor and his know-it-all friend find themselves in an impossible situation that becomes more and more impossible with each passing moment. Here “accidents happen” is an immense understatement. That they realize that there was no way they could convince the police that what happened in the flat was purely accidental lead the two into additional desperate and foolish acts. When a policewoman comes to call….well…the stage is set. Again. You think you had a bad day. The film, set in Dublin, was released in 2008 and features Dylan Morgan, Mark Doherty, who also wrote it, and Amy Huberman. Suspend disbelief early on and you will have fine time.

Watch The Guard last because it is a masterpiece thanks in large part to the immensely talented Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as the local Galway cop and, as a perfect foil, an FBI agent underplayed to perfection by Don Cheadle. One comes to love Gleeson’s character as dense and politically incorrect as his character appears to be. The film (2011) was the most successful Irish film, in terms of box office, ever. It is the story of professional drug traffickers who take their business to a remote part of Ireland believing that the local police are inept and that the plying of their trade would be trouble free. John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed. Gleeson received a Golden Globe best actor nomination for his work here. Great fun.

I may be in a rut in the Irish libations department. But most fitting for the evening is a drink called Black and Tan. It is made with two beers (layered), usually half pale ale and half stout. This is not only a great drink, but also a metaphor for the films in the pairing — light and dark. In Ireland, as Wikipedia warns, the drink has been renamed to avoid the politically charged Irish “Black and Tan” issue. So perhaps we should call it a Blacksmith. The light beer is poured first and the dark beer is poured slowly, over the round bottom of a spoon in order to create the “layer.” Then, of course, if you are not into the art of pouring or into beer or into metaphors, there’s always Irish whiskey. Cheers!

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