22 March 2008

Bedlam in Belgium

Went to see "In Bruges" last night, and it was amazing, probably the best Irish film I have ever seen. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are two hitmen hiding out in Bruges after a job goes wrong, but the film is far more character driven than situation driven. The trailer does not do the film justice, I went in prepared to hate it because the trailer gives the impression of a light-hearted slapstick gangster movie, a comedy of errors with a slightly Mr Bean-ish quality. I came out having seen possibly the truest portrayal of Dublin wit ever committed to film.

Gleeson plays Gleeson, as he has in almost every film he's ever been in. Farrell plays Farrell, as he thinks he is. Farrell likes to think he's a tough north-sider with a heart of gold, a wit and a charm and a way with the ladies; here he comes closest to that self-image, and for once he's not annoying (aside from the occasional Father Dougal-isms). Martin McDonagh who wrote and directed it is one of the most talented playwrights of modern Ireland; London born and with a tendency towards Synge-like portrayal of rural Ireland, he nonetheless has crafted an unconventional movie with the attention to language and character of a play, and the tension and adrenaline of a thriller.

The only problem is that it is an Irish film for an Irish audience. The swearing, anti-americanism and linguistic brutality that are second nature to us will not translate well to an international audience. The characters are real and believable to us, they look and sound right. While it opened Sundance and has received good reviews, it will alienate more people than it will entertain because it does not conform to the Hollywood portrayal of Oirishness, a portrayal that we readily adopt ourselves for such execrable exercises in self-loathing as "Angela's Ashes", "War of the Buttons", "Into the West" and anything else set in the west of Ireland, or with Glen Hansard in it.

Everybody should see this film, and if you hate it, good. That is what you deserve for every glass of green beer, 'St Patty's day' parade, every shamrock encrusted banner that ever darkened a website/street/t-shirt/episode of the Simpsons, and especially for letting Ronald Reagan have a little person dress up like a leprechaun and dance in the Oval Office on St Patrick's day.

That's just too far.

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