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Non-Review Review: Byzantium

Byzantium is visually stunning and thematically fascinating, a thoughtful and well-constructed vampire tale from the director of Interview with a Vampire. Neil Jordan’s latest bloodsucking epic might lack a narrative cohesion and take a while to get going, but it’s still an interesting exploration of the genre. Jordan has a wonderful skill for composition, and his flair ensures that the story of two ageless female vampires always looks breathtaking, even if the story does take a while to get going.

Talk about running red...

Talk about running red…

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The Borgias (Premiere Review)

I have to admit, I expected The Borgias to be significantly trashier than it actually was. Instead, the show seems to be something of a more mature and considered big brother of The Tudors, instead of serving as an Italian twin. That’s an observation, and not praise or criticism – there’s something to be said for the energy that cheap blood and sex can instill into even the most flaccid television show, and attempting a slightly more restrained tale of political intrigue is a far more difficult matter. Still, The Borgias has two distinct advantages: Jeremy Irons, and Neil Jordan.

Oh, he just can't wait to be Pope...

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day: Are We Too Harsh on Irish Films?

I read an article a little while ago (which is now locked to registered users of the Irish Times) in which director Neil Jordan suggested that, as a nation, we are too kind to our own films. Not that he was complaining, as he felt that he was doing quite nicely from the somewhat softer criticism.

However, always ready to cause a minor kerfuffle (that’s not an insult – it’s one of the reasons why I like him), Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke took time out to post this observation, provoking a raft of uncomplimentary responses from his readers. Commenting on his own article, Clarke admitted that it had all been a fiendishly clever gambit on his part:

This is all very interesting stuff. I must now confess something of an ulterior motive in posting this. You would not believe — and looking at responses above you really wouldn’t — the number of Irish film-makers who believe that domestic critics are unfairly negative towards their work. I’m glad to see I was not hallucinating.

We’re all “begrudgers” you see. (Incidentally that is my least favourite word in Irish-English.)

So,  do these critics have a point? Are we all just incredibly bitter about our own national film culture? In honour of Paddy’s Day, I thought I’d share my own opinions on the matter.

Note to international readers: most Irish films do not look like this...

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Non-Review Review: Ondine

I like Neil Jordan. He’s probably the greatest Irish director, and one of the few directors who can switch back and forth between big Hollywood productions like The Brave One and quirkier Irish films like Ondine, with neither feeling particularly strange or inappropriate for its particular genre. Ondine is Jordan’s attempt at a lowkey Irish fairytale, told in a small fishing village down in Cork – calling to mind the sort of stereotypical portrayal of country life in Ireland, filled with drunkards and gossiping locals, where everyone knows everyone else and a stranger is instantly remarked upon. It’s to Jordan’s credit that the film works as well as it does. The director manages to create a genuine sense of magic and whimsy which carries a large portion of the film. However, like most magic and slight of hand, if you look too closely you’re liable to figure out that nothing’s going on.

Does Neil Jordan's latest hold water?

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Neil Jordan at Trinity College

I had the great pleasure to pop along to a discussion with Neil Jordan hosted by the University Philosophical Society in Trinity College last night. I didn’t have a pen and paper handy, but I did make a few notes on the conversation which at least offer an interesting perspective or two from the Irish autuer. The Phil website normally has recordings of event up fairly promptly, so I’ll add a link to them soon. In the meantime, there are a few interesting thoughts in what the man said.

Irish film legend...

Irish film legend...