Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

“Short Shorts” at the 2003 Galway Film Fleadh

Following is a summary of the “short shorts” I saw during the 2003 Galway Film Fleadh. These Irish mini-movies attempt to make their impact in a time span limited to one to three minutes.

The Angelus wasn’t even shown at this film fleadh. Maybe it was last year. I don’t know. Anyway, I had to include it because it is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. I saw it at a multiplex, as a prelude to Bruce Almighty. A hilarious parody of an institution of Irish broadcasting. (Seen 2 July 2003)

The Butterfly Collector is essentially a roadrunner-and-coyote cartoon, although a bit rougher than the usual Warner Bros. fare. There might be some environmental moral, or maybe it’s just meant to be amusing. (Seen 11 July 2003)

Celtic Maidens apes those late-night TV commercial hucksters as it pokes fun at (mainly American) ideas of what Irish-ness is. People who dearly enjoy the Rose of Tralee festival every year might want to give this one a skip. (Seen 13 July 2003)

Hit & Run is a mini-drama with a twist ending that isn’t too hard to see coming. If getting knocked down by a car isn’t bad enough luck, it turns out that things can always get worse once you get to the hospital. (Seen 10 July 2003)

Lotus will probably please computer geeks and sci-fi movie fans who, after all, are frequently the same people. It’s basically like a big-screen version of what Windows Media Player does. The ending, though, feels like you’ve been whisked to hyper-space. (Seen 12 July 2003)

Maze is a photographic exercise, viewing the now-deserted titular Northern Ireland prison, where much history happened. Seeing it empty and ordinary seems somehow anticlimactic. (Seen 9 July 2003)

Waterloo Dentures features a handsome production in service of a single joke. It’s good for a laugh and won’t do anything to dispel caricatured notions about English dental care. (Seen 8 July 2003)


New Irish Shorts Programme
11 July 2003

All God’s Children is a well-executed tale that would have done Edgar Allan Poe proud. Set in the fog-shrouded moors in the mid-19th century, six men escort a convict who is meant to help them locate his last murder victim. Things do not go according to plan.

Up the Country starts out as a minor caper film, with the roguish Biscuit dragging along his pastry-loving friend. Unexpectedly, this shaggy dog tale develops into an unexpectedly haunting ghostly love story.

LSD ‘73, more or less in the style of Flying Saucer Rock’n’Roll, attempts to do for psychedelic drugs what that film did for UFOs. I am always a little leery, however, of comedies where the main jokes seem to be the hair styles.

The Making of a Prodigy makes some sort of comment, I think, about the relationship between artists and their patrons, or maybe the government. Told from the point of view of a dangerously obsessed art teacher, the film tells how she identifies a budding prodigy among her students and attempts to nurture his gift.

The Last Time only got second place in Galway. It got the top prize in Cork last October.

As na Ráillí (Off the Rails) chronicles Fiachra’s last day as a ticket-taker for the Irish railroad. He is being replaced by a machine. A lot of strange things happen on that last day, and we can’t be entirely sure if it is all in Fiachra’s mind or something more general. Needless to say, the title of this Irish-language film is apt in both its meanings.

Meeting Che Guevara and the Man from Maybury Hill is a stunning bit of film work, based on a true historical footnote. In 1963, around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Che (whose grandmother was from Galway) made a stopover at Dublin Airport and gave a local TV interview. In a mesmerizing apparent homage to Orson Welles, filmmaker Anthony Byrne and star Fiona O’Shaughnessy (Goldfish Memory) create a haunting evocation of films noirs. The icing on the cake is the wonderful and unexpected cameo at the end.


Public Interview with Pierce Brosnan

It is a mark of how important the Galway Film Fleadh has become or the stature and fame of Pierce Brosnan or both that the public interview was not the cozy, conversational encounter that, say, the one two years ago with Colm Meaney was. No admission was charged for Meaney’s interview, but in Brosnan’s case, the public was charged for the opportunity for being in the studio audience of a radio interview.

Brosnan was interviewed by RTÉ’s Myles Dungan and, if you are reading this before July 18, you have the chance to hear the interview yourself, as it is scheduled to be broadcast by RTÉ Radio One (www.rte.ie) on Friday at 2:45 p.m. Irish time (1345 GMT) on the arts program Rattlebag.

Usually these film fest interviews are a film geek affair, with the interviewer assuming that the audience has a strong working knowledge of the subject’s work and is interested in discussing methods and techniques as well as hearing the occasional entertaining anecdote. This interview, however, was a bit like, well, listening to the radio. Brosnan and Dungan are both so experienced at doing these sorts of interviews, that there was a bit of a feeling of going through the motions. Dungan focused on the usual territory: Brosnan’s childhood in Navan, County Meath; the breakup of his family; moving to south London; various phases of his acting career. There was some gentle probing about his personal life, but the death of his first wife, for example, was barely alluded to.

Brosnan has been a regular fixture in the Irish media lately. He has formed a film company to concentrate on making films in Ireland. Its first fruit was the sentimental, crowd-pleasing Evelyn. He is currently filming The Laws of Attraction with Julianne Moore in Dublin (even though the story is set in New York). Not coincidentally, he was recently heard on Irish radio, expressing his hope that the government would maintain tax breaks for filmmaking in Ireland. And he lent his presence and support to the Special Olympics, which were held last month in Ireland.

As an interview subject, Brosnan is a bit of cipher. Despite his embracing of his Irish-ness, his manner is strictly studied British nonchalance. His attitude to his life and work seems philosophical to a fault. He gives every indication of being satisfied of where he is and how he got there. Even discussion of how he originally lost the James Bond role to Timothy Dalton (to do a lousy six final episodes of Remington Steele) elicits little emotion. His attitude to the whole business is basically a shrug. What film is he most proud of? He’s proud of all of them.

Still, a few surprises come out of Dungan’s interview. For instance, it wouldn’t have necessarily occurred to us that Brosnan would have anecdotes about working with Tennessee Williams and Franco Zeffirelli, from his early London stage days. The anecdotes are hardly memorable, but they’re welcome anyway. It’s also interesting to hear that Brosnan was never “allowed” to play an English character in his early days. He was always cast as an Irishman or an American. A prime example of this being his brief appearance at the end of the 1981 gangster film The Long Good Friday, as the IRA hit man who has come to do in Bob Hoskins. Brosnan was amusing enough as he recounted how he never actually met Hoskins, even though they shared the scene. Their parts were filmed separately and each actor delivered their lines to a piece of tape, marking where the other actor should be.

Magically, once Dungan ended his portion of the interview and opened things up for a few minutes to questions from the audience, the atmosphere in Galway’s Town Hall Centre changed completely. The excitement level grew as people vied for a chance at one of the microphones. Many of the “questions” were actually come-ons. A woman loaded the actor/producer with compliments and then asked if he might look at her script. A grandmother from Limerick asked if she could have her picture taken with him. (“None of my friends will believe it.”) An eight-year-old boy asked if he would autograph a photo he had brought. Brosnan good-naturedly acceded in both cases.

This was also when people tried to dig up some dirt. Did he really have a feud with Stephanie Zimbalist on Remington Steele? Those reports were blown out of proportion. Who was his favorite Bond girl? Taking an extraordinary risk, he mentioned two: Izabella Scorupco (Goldeneye) and Halle Berry (Die Another Day). This also provided the one moment where Brosnan really came alive and seemed to be just one of the lads. He volunteered a story of how he once found himself walking through Dublin’s Phoenix Park, when a young man spotted him and asked to shake his hand. Brosnan complied, and a huge smile came over the fellow’s face. Holding up his own hand, the Dubliner exclaimed with satisfaction, “That’s the closest I will ever come to having my hand on Halle Berry’s arse!.” (Attended 13 July 2003)