Reasons for optimism among the Cork film posse
There is muscle, grit and guile in the taut forms of the shorts at this year’s Corona Cork Film Festival, writes DONALD CLARKE
As the Corona Cork Film Festival cranked its way through a successful 57th edition, the nation gradually became engulfed in a trauma of self-evisceration. By midweek, a dignified crowd had gathered outside the Cork Opera House, the event’s hub, to acknowledge the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Andrew Legge’s A Kingdom Once Again, one of the wittiest shorts in the programme, looked a little like a prescient response to the soul-searching. Beginning with a grim detailing of our current malaise – economic meltdown, social exclusion – Legge went on to offer his own latter-day modest proposal: the Republic should re-enter the United Kingdom. The director had his tongue in his cheek. But his timing could not have been more acute.
The Cork Film Festival – by far the country’s oldest such event – continues to screen a robust array of features. Last night, it featured the Irish premiere of Seven Psychopaths, a characteristically profane, structurally busy comedy from Martin McDonagh. A little less tight than the writer-director’s In Bruges, though more ambitious in the reach of its plot, the film finds Colin Farrell playing a blocked writer propelled among hoodlums. Christopher Walken stands out as a bereaved oddball with a poetic turn of phrase.
Other features of note included Keith Jones and Deon Maas’s Punk in Africa, which did a good job of explaining the multi-racial nature of that music in an unlikely setting, Bill Morrison’s The Great Flood, a study of a deluge in early 20th-century Mississippi, and a welcome festival outing for Gerard Barrett’s fine Pilgrim Hill.
Cork has, however, long been noted for its focus on new Irish short films and, as they are often produced by up-and-coming film-makers, such beasts offer some sort of measure of the industry’s potential at home.
Once again, the technical elan on display was enormously impressive. Long gone are the days when one applauded when the camera failed to fall over. More than a few of the shorts called out to be expanded into features.
Whereas A Kingdom Once Again was something of an angry trifle, Legge’s properly moving The Girl With the Mechanical Maiden came across as an epic in pocket form. Dominic West plays a widowed Victorian inventor who constructs a mechanical nursemaid with predictably troubling results. Featuring a mechanical protagonist who gestures towards Brigitte Helm in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the film manages to pay tribute to classic cinema of the macabre without treading on Tim Burton’s toes. Give this man some proper money.