Sometimes, there’s too much of a good thing. With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, that could mean that one final green beer too many at closing time, or it could mean “The Quiet Man” is running on a loop on cable once again. Don’t get me wrong – John Ford’s 1952 love letter to his beloved Ireland is a fine movie. A little heavy on the blarney, perhaps, but certainly worth watching for one of John Wayne’s best performances, and his best on-screen romantic partner in the appropriately fiery Maureen O’Hara. Still, even an entertaining movie like this one is going to wear a little thin on the tenth annual viewing (or more), so here are a few perhaps-overlooked Irish films for your St. Paddy’s Day enjoyment.
“The Secret Of Roan Inish.” Like Ford, maverick American director John Sayles turned to his Irish roots to film this rapturously entertaining fable about a young girl (adorable but determined Jeni Courtney) who sets out to uncover the family mystery about why her fisherman clan abandoned their tiny island home years before. With the Irish coastline stunningly photography by famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler, the film is both earthy and magical, an all-time classic family film loved by pretty much everyone who sees it.
Watch the Trailer for “The Secret of Roan Inish”
“The Secret Of Kells.” Often compared to the works of master Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”) this animated Irish tale similarly uses stylized, visually striking artwork to tell the tale of a young boy whose quest to illustrate the legendary “Book Of Kells” sees him butting heads with a local Abbot and the invading Vikings. Both beautiful and perilous, the boy’s journey is steeped in Irish myth and history – and not a leprechaun in sight.
“The Wind That Shakes The Barley.” If you’d like to get real on this St. Paddy’s Day – I mean, Ireland’s had it rough, people – there’s this typically uncompromising period piece from director Ken Loach. The story of two brothers from rugged County Cork (Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney) who end up on opposite sides of the 1920s fight for Irish independence from England, the film depicts the birth of the IRA in brutally human terms. Not a feel-good movie, but an insightful and powerful one about Irish history.
“In America.” While the Irish immigrant love story “Brooklyn” (still in theaters near you) is raking in all the accolades, why not stay home this St. Patrick’s Day with this similarly moving and magical story of a modern day Irish family stealing into New York City. With excellent performances by Paddy Considine and Samatha Morton (and Djimon Honsou as the struggling couple’s mysterious new tenement neighbor), the film suggests that the Irish immigrant experience of coming to America to achieve your dreams remains as complex (and ultimately optimistic) as ever.
“Once.” Speaking of emotionally wrenching love stories, this musical story of an Irish street musician and the Czech flower-seller who becomes his songwriting partner sails along on the music of stars Glenn Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who fell in love off-screen as well). The scene where she helps him finish a half-written song (the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly”) on a music store’s piano is one of the most achingly lovely sequences in romantic movie history.
Watch the trailer for “Once”
“The Dead.” Legendary director John Huston’s final movie is his dream project, an adaptation of James Joyce’s subtly heartbreaking short story about the secret depths of a seemingly happily married woman’s heart. Daughter Anjelica Huston delivered one of her finest performances, and, like the story, the film’s last lines, delivered while an Ireland-wide blanketing snowstorm rages outside, land with devastating power.
“Waking Ned Devine.” Or, if things are getting too heavy, there’s always this crowd-pleasing, everybody-loves-it Irish comedy about a picturesque village of loveable Irish types scheming to hold onto the lottery winnings of the recently deceased Ned. Like “The Quiet Man,” this one is so comfy and beloved that it’s similarly headed for over-saturation in the coming St. Paddy’s Days, but sometimes that’s what you need, especially after those green beers.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Thursday: “Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion! Picks at Frontier presents: Blancanieves.” Brunswick Video store fixture Bart & Greg’s continues its film series at Frontier with another eclectic choice, this time a glorious, balc-and-white 1920s-set Spanish version of Snow White. A Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, the movie will be followed by discussion with Bart D’Alauro.
SPACE Gallery (Portland)
Monday: “Stretch And Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives.” Rap fans and rockumentary fans should turn out for this documentary portrait of 1990s deejays Stretch and Bobbito, whose late night radio show is responsible for introducing millions of people to then-unknown artists like Nas, Biggie Smalls, The Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, Jay Z, Eminem, and the Fugees. Followed by a Skype Q&A with Robert “Bobbito” Garcia.