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Celtic legacy on video

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On video, the Celtic legacy is as rich as peat bog. Here are some outstanding examples, each displaying a different facet of the Emerald Isle.

Odd Man Out (1947)
The best film about ”the Troubles,” Odd Man Out is the 12-hour odyssey of a wounded revolutionary (James Mason) seeking shelter as he attempts to foil a Belfast manhunt. Director Carol Reed hosed down the streets to get that ”wet look,” later made famous in his The Third Man, to evoke a near-hallucinogenic nightmare world. Mason gives a grand performance, his voice racked with desperation and pain yet sonorous. A

The Quiet Man (1952)
Blarney in eye-popping Technicolor. American boxer John Wayne returns to his birthplace in Innisfree, where he gets on the wrong side of Victor McLaglen and falls for his spitfire sister (Maureen O’Hara), leading to one of the most elaborate (but unrealistic) donnybrooks on film. Sentimental and sexist, John Ford’s gorgeous slice of the auld sod nevertheless moves like music. A-

Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
David Lean’s exquisite, unabashedly romantic movie, set in Northern Ireland during World War I, is lengthy (three hours), and its mammoth scale runs counter to its simple love story: Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles) marries a retiring schoolteacher (Robert Mitchum, cast very successfully against type) and has a scandalous affair with a British soldier (Christopher Jones). But the whole grandiose mass of it is, as they say, utterly darling. B+

The Dead (1987)
Like the James Joyce story from which it is adapted, director John Huston’s superb valedictory film is about three things at which the Irish excel: language, sadness, and hospitality. Two old maids throw an annual Christmas party at which a wide range of characters navigate the often touching circumlocutions of human interaction. The film, a mere 83 minutes, seems to glow from the inside. In the final, overwhelming scene, Anjelica Huston painfully confesses her past love for a dead boy named Michael Furey, and it begins to snow outside as if the earth itself were grieving. A

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987)
If drink is a good man’s failing, as Eugene O’Neill wrote, this film proves it’s a decent woman’s hell. Maggie Smith plays, magnificently, an alcoholic Dublin spinster who makes one last lunge at happiness, which arrives in the person of Bob Hoskins, who eventually dupes her. While the subplots never quite capture the poignancy of Brian Moore’s brilliant novel, few can forget the helplessness on Smith’s face after she has spent a drunken night on a cold floor. B+

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