Al Mandolino, resident musician at the always-quirky weekly Pear Shaped comedy club in London, read my blog yesterday about Ireland and e-mailed me:
It’s jogged a fond memory from when I toured Ireland in a punk folk band called Tofu Love Frogs.
One summer’s night after a particularly riotous gig in Dublin I was driving an old VW camper full of ‘colourful characters’ through the city centre. Our drummer in the passenger seat was being very loud and animated with bongos, hanging out of his window and shouting stuff.
We stopped at a red light.
A motorbike drew up along my side.
The Garda officer stood up on it and his helmeted head filled my open window, inching into the van, sniffing.
“Have you been drinking?” he inquired.
“No,” was all I could manage.
“Good,” he said. “If you do, don’t let him sit in the front. He draws attention to you.”
Last week, I was talking to someone about the Isle of Man and the subject of political corruption came up.
“I think maybe the Isle of Man is too small to be a country,” I said. “It’s like Ireland. Almost everyone in any position of power in Dublin seems to have gone to school or college or is very matey with everyone else in any position of power. The place is inherently corrupt because it is too small.”
And, indeed, I worry about an independent Scotland for the same reason.
This conversation came back to me when I saw the Irish movie The Guard yesterday, which has collected a fair amount of word-of-mouth enthusiasm. It has been called “subversive”, presumably because of its casual acceptance of corruption.
The phrase ‘The Guard’, by the way, is used as in someone who is a member of the Irish police force, the Garda
It is a very funny little film starring the always-good Brendan Gleeson as a village policeman in the West of Ireland. He uses prostitutes, has taken cocaine and ecstasy and swears casually. Which I found was part of the slight (but only slight) problem with the script.
The Guard is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, the brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, who has said (obviously) he would be quite happy if his $6 million movie did the same amount of business at the box office as The King’s Speech (which has currently grossed around $386 million on a $15 million budget).
In fact, I think The Guard stood more chance as another Full Monty ($257 million gross on a $3.5 million budget) because it has neither the big historic story nor the middle-of-the-road appeal of The King’s Speech.
The plot of The Guard is spiced up with the arrival of FBI agent Don Cheadle, who is black, allowing for streams of non-PC comment from the local cop – which we are never totally sure is real or tongue-in-cheek.
Which is fine.
The trouble is the swearing.
There is too much of it.
The first 20 minutes is full of “fucking” this and “fucking” that, as if the film is nervous it is too middle-of-the-road and is trying to establish itself as a movie not just for middle-aged lovers of Victoria Wood humour but for ‘the kids’ in ‘the Projects’. The trouble is that the excessive swearing is likely to alienate the audience that made The King’s Speech such a blockbuster and, as far as I can see, it is just plain unrealistic.
I just do not buy into the fact that the local policemen, whatever his foibles, and his mother and, it seems most of the population of rural Connemara/Galway are going around swearing like fucking troopers in fucking casual fucking conversation. It tails off after the first 20 minutes, but it remains distracting and unnecessary. It is as if North Dublin speech rhythms had been imported into a rural West of Ireland setting.
I also did not swallow the idea that three down-market scumbag heroin smugglers (and they are established as that) would be discussing Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Dylan Thomas… nor that locals would be mentioning Dostoyevsky and Gogol in casual conversation.
Perhaps this is an attempt to ‘do a Tarantino’ with the script, but his characters tend to discuss Madonna lyrics and hamburgers.
It was, at the very least, distracting.
But I am being far too critical of The Guard. It is a very enjoyable small-scale film – and very funny – though I think it has been damaged by trying to make it more commercial.
But, then, who am I to tell anyone how to make a more commercial film?