`Ashes' a work of art, says film director


Alan Parker didn't hide his impatience when asked about the opposition to Angela's Ashes led by Limerick bookseller and part-time radio presenter Gerry Hannan. "I'm a bit bored hearing it, to be honest," the film director told reporters in Dublin yesterday. Angela's Ashes was a work of art, he said, "one of the most beautiful books written in the past 20 years".

He respected the sensitivity of Limerick people in general and their possessiveness about the story, but "they were rather critical of my treatment of Eva Peron in Buenos Aires, and they were critical in Mississippi [of the film Mississippi Burning]."

Frank McCourt's book was a "work of art" which met Gore Vidal's definition of autobiography, being an "impression" of a life, rather than a memoir, he said. But it was very important that the McCourts themselves had liked the film.

Asked how his experience of filming compared with The Commitments (1990), Parker was more relaxed. "When I did The Commitments, I said it was the best time I'd ever had making a film.

I got up every morning and looked forward to going to work." This was not true of his last film, Evita, but Angela's Ashes had been a similar experience to the Commitments, he added.

One of those people - Emily Watson, the British actress who plays the eponymous Angela - admitted it was a challenging role, given that her character was "clinically depressed." But it was a "complicated and subtle" film, and the language of the book was one of its attractions. "For an English girl, it feels like poetry . . . you have a way of expressing yourself here that's naturally poetic, and we don't have that."

The press conference also featured the three young actors who play Frank McCourt at different stages of his early life. "Young Frank", nine-year-old Joe Breen, stole most of the attention, posing for the cameras in a Wexford jersey while standing in front of the film posters which are making his cherubic features famous.

Unfazed by the media frenzy, he admitted growing bored with the film, having seen it now five times. "After a while, it's just: there's me, there's me, there's me." He deftly declined comment when asked how much he'd been paid for the job, and he wasn't considering acting as a career. "A farmer - no, a vet," he said when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Ciaran Owens (13), from Cavan, and Michael Legge (20) from Newry, play "middle" and "older" Frank, and kept their heads yesterday as their junior colleague upstaged them. Already appearing in Ballykissangel, Ciaran is a brother of Eamon, who played the title role in Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy. But Eamon was still the big star in the family, and he (Ciaran) was no threat to him.