Archives for September 2022

2 Things to Watch out for on Irish Television

An Buachaill Gael Gáireach, The Laugh­ing Boy

There was a new doc­u­men­tary fea­ture screened recent­ly on TG4, and a 3 part doc­u­men­tary series on RTE, and both were excellent. 

An Buachaill Gael Gáireach, or The Laugh­ing Boy tells the unlike­ly if entire­ly true sto­ry behind Bren­dan Behan’s most famous song. After hear­ing about how help­ful Michael Collins had been to his moth­er when she had been preg­nant with him, the teenage Behan penned the Laugh­ing Boy, in Irish, in his honour.

Twen­ty years lat­er, he trans­lat­ed it into Eng­lish and used it as the cen­tre piece for his play, The Hostage. And when that play was then per­formed in Paris, a cou­ple of Greek ex-patri­ots saw it and were deter­mined to stage it in Athens. And they com­mis­sioned Mikis Theodor­akis, the most cel­e­brat­ed Greek com­pos­er of the 20th cen­tu­ry, to pro­vide the music for their production.

Theo Dor­gan, right, on his own per­son­al Greek odyssey.

And, improb­a­bly to say the least, that adap­ta­tion of Behan’s song then became the unof­fi­cial nation­al anthem for Greece, after being tak­en up as the song Greeks sang to protest the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship that ruled there between 1967–74. So, lit­er­al­ly, every sin­gle Greek boy and girl grew up singing it in the 1970s and 80s as a sym­bol of their resistance. 

Direct­ed by Alan Gilse­nan and pre­sent­ed by the poet Theo Dor­gan, it’s one of the few films to actu­al­ly ben­e­fit by not being too rigid in its struc­ture or focus. Instead, the film is left free to wan­der and gen­tly mean­der, as it embraces its sprawl­ing themes. Fus­ing music with poet­ry, film and the­atre, to explore his­to­ry, pol­i­tics and cul­ture, exam­ined and expressed in Irish, Eng­lish and Greek.

Impec­ca­bly realised, it’s a film that, for once, lives up to its lofty ambitions.

The Island is a 3 part doc­u­men­tary series on RTE and the BBC, and it too deliv­ers on its com­mend­able ambi­tions. So many of these sorts of things reveal them­selves to be lit­tle more than thin­ly veiled com­mer­cials for the tourist indus­try. The Island was, impres­sive­ly, very much a sci­ence-led series. 

Liz Bon­nin, on The Island.

This, you feel sure, is down to it being pre­sent­ed by Liz Bon­nin, who is chalk­ing up an impres­sive record in pop­u­lar sci­ence pro­grammes for the BBC. It promised and then duly gave us a 1.8 bil­lion year his­to­ry of the island of Ire­land, with an array of wide-rang­ing  aca­d­e­mics and instruc­tive graph­ics, which were used to clar­i­fy and illu­mi­nate with­out ever over-simplifying.

It still looks rav­ish­ing of course. But for once, the images are giv­en a pur­pose and a context. 

What a joy to be treat­ed like an adult for a few stray hours.

You can see The Laugh­ing Boy on the TG4 play­er here:áireach&series=An%20Buachaill%20Gealgháireach&genre=Faisneis&pcode=622980

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month on All the very Best and Worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Apple TV’s ‘Severance’ is the real deal

Apple TV’s “Sev­er­ance”

Things have been qui­et of late, in this the much her­ald­ed gold­en age of tele­vi­sion. There has been plen­ty of per­fect­ly watch­able, emi­nent­ly ade­quate fod­der on offer from the var­i­ous stream­ing ser­vices and their ter­res­tri­al brethren. But very lit­tle to write home about. 

So it was with a slight sense of wari­ness that I sat down to watch Sev­er­ance, notwith­stand­ing all the noise it’s gen­er­at­ed. But for once, that hype was entire­ly jus­ti­fied. Hap­pi­ly, it’s the real deal.

It’s a high con­cept, Big Idea series. A nefar­i­ous and implic­it­ly evil tech cor­po­ra­tion has invent­ed a chip that allows you to sep­a­rate, sev­er, your work-you from your home-you. So as you work through the mind­less chores at the face­less office where you work, you’ve no idea what you do or who you are for the rest of the day when you’re at home. 

The same neck of the woods.

As you descend in the ele­va­tor at the end of the day, the chip kicks in, and you step out on to the ground floor as your home-you, or what they call your ‘out­ie’. And after you get back into the ele­va­tor as your out­ie the fol­low­ing morn­ing, you emerge on the ‘sev­er­ance’ floor as your ‘innie’. Com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous as what you might have got up to in between. 

Why would any­body want that? Well, Mark has recent­ly lost his wife in a car crash. And, he fig­ures, at least for 8 hours a day he’ll be spared the bot­tom­less grief he’s floored by dur­ing the oth­er 16.

It’s avowed­ly left of field and off kil­ter, and veers from the sur­re­al­ly mun­dane to men­ac­ing and back, often in the same scene. Think Char­lie Kauf­man meets David Lynch, where both have had their wings clipped to rein their flights of fan­cy in. Which is, respec­tive­ly, both good and bad. 

Every­thing about Sev­er­ance is impec­ca­bly craft­ed. The art direc­tion is pris­tine, the direct­ing, by Ben Stiller, is foot per­fect and the act­ing is excep­tion­al across the board. 

All the gang on the Sev­er­ance floor.

Adam Scott takes the lead as Mark, and is impres­sive­ly abet­ted by Britt Low­er, Zach Cher­ry, John Tur­tur­ro and, improb­a­bly, Christo­pher Walken, all of whom are out­stand­ing as his increas­ing­ly rebel­lious co-work­ers. But Patri­cia Arquette man­ages to some­how steal the show, as the near­est thing to a plau­si­ble and gen­uine­ly ter­ri­fy­ing real­i­sa­tion of the wicked witch of the West. 

And, rather than address­ing them head on, it sen­si­bly flirts around the philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions that it rais­es about the self, pur­pose, mean­ing, work-life bal­ance and agency. Most impres­sive­ly of all, it builds momen­tum and rais­es the stakes con­tin­u­al­ly, thanks to the per­fect­ly met­ed out parcels of sto­ry. And the increas­ing­ly com­pelling cliff-hang­ers that each episode con­cludes with.

It might not quite be up there with series 1 of Twin Peaks, and I hope it does a bet­ter job than that show did of main­tain­ing its momen­tum into series 2. But it’s com­fort­ably the best show to grace our screens since Bojack pur­sued and fed his demons (reviewed ear­li­er by me here).

You can see the trail­er for Sev­er­ance here:

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month on All the best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!