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Irish Film Festival


The fourth annual Irish Film Festival runs Friday through Sunday, February 28 through March 2, at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $10; a $40 pass covers all screenings and the opening reception. For more information call 773-445-3838.


How Harry Became a Tree

Set in the uneasy aftermath of the civil conflict that divided Ireland in the early 20th century, this absorbing drama (2001) stars Colm Meaney as the title character, a belligerent cabbage farmer who tries to draw his son, the son's young bride, and the rest of the town of Skillet into his long-standing feud with a local pub owner (Adrian Dunbar). Harry's older son lies six feet under, "full of English bullets," and his wife has died of grief. The younger son, dull-witted but handsome, takes a fancy to the pub owner's new maid, so Harry cuts a deal with his nemesis to permit the marriage in exchange for half his cabbage crop--an arrangement that quickly turns sour. Meaney gives a galvanic performance as Harry, whose spite is the only thing holding his anguish at bay; the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Director Goran Paskaljevic, a native of Serbia, contributed to the screenplay, which was adapted from a Chinese folktale; its cultural mutability is a tragic commentary in itself. 100 min. (JJ) Two shorts complete the program: Aiden Hickey's animated Inside Job (1987) and Samira Radsi and Alex Hutton's An Te Nach bhFuil Laidir (2002), the latter in Gaelic with subtitles. Tickets are $30 and include a reception prior to the screening. (7:00)


Bloody Sunday

Paul Greengrass's vivid, devastating film (2001) captures the dread, horror, and confusion of January 30, 1972, in Bogside, the district in Northern Ireland where British soldiers fired on Irish activists during a civil rights march, killing 13 and wounding more. Adapting Don Mullan's oral history of the tragedy, Greengrass sacrifices character and plot to a chilling impressionistic stylization. Shot by the excellent Ivan Strasburg, the entire film is photographed with handheld cameras that hover and swoop, producing a breathtaking immediacy. The director dispenses with transitions, punctuating terse, charged scenes of political organizers, soldiers at the army command center, and British officers by fading to black--a form of ellipsis that establishes a convincing political, cultural, and social framework for the events, the officers' class-conscious arrogance, the soldiers' sense of power, and the Irish activists' feelings of loss, anger, and political impotence. The movie's searing conclusion left me numb and overwhelmed. With James Nesbitt. 107 min. (Patrick Z. McGavin) Two shorts complete the program: Brendan Muldowney's Innocence (2002) and Audrey O'Reilly's Clare sa Speir, the latter in Gaelic with subtitles. (2:00)


Adapted from Spike Milligan's 1963 novel, this 2001 feature sounds funny on paper: with the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921, the village of Puckoon is summarily divided in half, leaving the local pub a maze of barbed wire and the Catholic church unable to bury its dead in the town's northerly graveyard. On-screen, however, the comedy is so forced--with mugging, goofy sound effects, and the like--that you may feel like you're being clobbered with the Blarney Stone. Richard Attenborough is the omniscient narrator, who's continually interrupted by queries and complaints from the characters; it's a familiar gag, and like everything else in the film it's beaten into the ground. Terence Ryan is responsible for the screenplay and the leaden direction; with Sean Hughes, Daragh O'Malley, John Lynch, Elliott Gould as a Jewish doctor, and Griff Rhys Jones channeling the spirit of Terry-Thomas as a stiff-necked English colonel. 82 min. (JJ) Four 2002 shorts complete the program: Pearse Moore's animated Pulling the Devil by the Tail, Mickey Dwyer's Sets & Violence, Conor Horgan's The Last Time, and Michael McCudden's One Up on Two. (8:00)


The Quiet Man

John Ford's 1952 Oscar winner is a tribute to an Ireland that exists only in the imaginations of songwriters and poets like Ford, a fairy-green place where people really do say "faith and begorrah." John Wayne is an Irish-born American boxer who returns to his native village to (1) claim the family homestead, (2) win acceptance from the Abbey Players who populate the area, and (3) win the heart and hand--and dowry--of the local beauty, Maureen O'Hara, by winning over (and ultimately pummeling senseless) her hard-drinking brother, Victor McLaglen. A wonderful film, with a marvelous supporting cast headed by Barry Fitzgerald as Wayne's pixieish helper. 129 min. (DD) Two shorts complete the program: Beau Guest (1956) and Oda O'Carroll's Sunday Munch (2002). (2:00)

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