St. Patrick’s Day. A day for Guinness, Corn Beef and an Irish movie (at least in my house).
Here’s a collection of wonderful Irish films – and not films about Irish people in America – but the Irish in Ireland. The main themes that seem to run through them are drinking, music and the tragedy of an occupied, divided land. The first two themes are the fun ones – the latter the tragic tales. All are well worth a looksee.
Brendan Gleason commands the screen in the riotously funny film. He plays seemingly dense Irish policeman who works with CIA agent Don Cheadle to bust a drug smuggling ring.
Quiet Man (1952)
The Duke tames a red-headed l and beats the heck out of Victor McLaglen. This John Ford epic shows an Ireland that exists only in the minds of Americans of Irish descent. And it’s wonderful.
Despite its low budget and amateur actors, the film works because of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová solid, adorable performances struggling musicians who connect. The music carries the film more than anything – and the two stars were rewarded with an Oscar for best song.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
John Sayles’ lovely fairytale of 10-year-old Fiona who learns the local legend that an ancestor of her’s married a Selkie – a seal who can turn into a human. And how it might be a part of her baby brother’s disappearance years before.
Waking Ned Devine
Ned Devine is dead. Problem is he won the lottery. See if an entire Irish village can con the lottery man into believing that David Kelly is actually the recently departed Ned. Heck of a lot of fun.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
A tragic tale with top notch performances. While Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thompson are top billed, it’s the great Pete Postlethwaite who owns this film as Lewis’ father.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
The winner of the PALME D’OR at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, the Wind That Shakes the Barley leaves out the drinking and music for a tragic tale set in early 20th century Ireland, where two brothers are torn apart in the Irish Civil War. Wonderful, but rarely seen, film.
The Informer (1935)
Another John Ford film. This one stars Victor McLaglen – who would win an Oscar for the role – as an IRA fighter who turns in his comrade for a reward – and a chance to skip Ireland for America. But it’s not that easy. The film is a dated, but still a worthy addition to Ford’s work – and McLaglan’s. (Sorry, no clip available for this film.)
The Commitments (1991)
Alan Parker’s glorious, rousing ode to old school R&B music as played by a pack of misfits in the slums of Dublin. Funny, profane and rousing in so many ways.
The General (1998)
John Boorman’s film about the real life Dublin gangster, Martin Cahill, played superbly by Brendan Gleeson (best known as Mad Eye Moody from the Harry Potter films).