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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights (2011) - Re Black Heathcliff & Animal Cruelty

Yet another version of Emily Bronte's 1847 novel, this one mostly notable for having a black Heathcliff - well, two black Heathcliffs as the teenage Heathcliff and his older version are played by different actors. Cue much debate about whether is an unwarranted deviation from Bronte's work. Bronte's description of Heathcliff is fairly clear, he is "a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect" (Chapter 1). Despite some arguments that have been made, he's definitely not black. That's why Nelly Dean says to him "A good heart will help you to a bonny countenance, if you were a regular black" (Chapter 7). If you were a regular black - clearly he isn't black, from this remark. Interesting though in what it implies about Nelly's attitude to blackness, as a contrast to being "bonny".

So Heathcliff is really a gypsy, but having a black actor play him sort of makes sense, as both groups would have been very much Others in Victorian society. Probably both a gypsy and a black person would be equally out of place and open to hostility and suspicion in 19th century rural Yorkshire. It certainly makes more sense than having Laurence Olivier play him, as in the classic 1939 version. Olivier was so saxon-looking, and with such polished manners, that he's pretty much the antithesis of what Heathcliff represented in Bronte's book.

It's also interesting to note this dealing with blackness in period drama in some other recent examples. In the 2008 Little Dorrit, for example, a fairly minor character named Tattycoram, maid to the Meagles family, is played by a black actress (Freema Agyeman). Her blackness is never actually referred to; nobody comments on it, or even casts her a sideways glance, though she's pretty conspicuous in the sea of whiteness that is the rest of the cast, and would have been conspicuous in the time and place the story is set. So why do we have a black Tattycoram, and why is it not explicitly dealt with? Scriptwriter Andrew Davies would probably say because it's no big deal, black actors should be able to appear in period dramas without it being justified, or being an issue in any way. Alternatively, one could see it as laziness: it's easy to make a gesture towards multi-culturalism, harder to actually deal with it in any way or theorize the place of race in period drama. Easy to drop a black actor in and say no more about it, but bask in the warm glow of "colourblind casting", harder to actually rewrite a character to take account of the different experiences he/ she would have as a black than as a white.

Arnold in Wuthering Heights does actually acknowledge Heathcliff's race; that is, she has the other characters use it as an insult against him at times. As we watch Heathcliff's experience and how others react to him, it seems reasonable that Heathcliff could have been black (though Bronte's Heathcliff definitely wasn't, just to reiterate that as some people have tried to make a case for it). So it's not colourblind casting, as race remains an issue and is acknowledged. The racial issue is assimilated into the text, unlike in Little Dorrit or the mixed-race Nancy in the 2007 BBC Oliver Twist.

Animal Cruelty

One very disturbing aspect of this film were the scenes of animal cruelty. Not the fact of them, so much as the realism. Not the realism in itself, either, but the fact they were so real that I was left asking, How did they do that? and wondering just how realistic it was. There's a sheep's throat being cut, in extreme close-up, you see his eyes rolling around, then the knife goes into his neck. There's a rabbit having his neck broken, again very close-up, again you see the rabbit's eyes moving and it's obviously a real animal, then you see its body being jerked to break the neck. There's also two scenes where you see small dogs being left hanging by their necks and yelping. In this case, you don't see them die, but the hanging looks real.

According to the British Board of Film Classification: "Assurances have been provided by the production company explaining in detail how these scenes were filmed, including detail of special effects employed, so as not to harm any of the animals involved." That's a relief, and if no animals really were harmed, you've got to  give them credit for some outstanding technical trickery, though in any case those scenes were unnecessary and tangential to the story - they're not plot, they work maybe to show how violent and sadistic Heathcliff (I can't remember if he was involved in all the animal cruelty scenes or if some of them were other characters) is, but that's pretty clear anyway. One scene showing his cruelty to animals would be maybe justified by character exposition, but four is both self-indulgent and voyeuristic. The fact that after seeing it I actually had to go and check up on the scenes I think illustrates that they were excessive, unless you really like violence against animals.

Anyway, in conclusion, the film was ok. I agree with what a lot of critics have said, that the first half with the teenage Heathcliff and Cathy is better than the second - it's always jarring in a film that spans a long time fram to go from one actor to another playing the same character, especially when they don't look anything alike. I though this was most conspicuous with the two Cathies. Also, like most versions of the story, this one only took the Heathcliff/ Cathy affair and left out the later one between Hareton and Cathy Mk II. This means it's not a really satisfactorily plotted story, and the latter parts seem to just consist of Heathcliff wandering around being anguished. And as for the bizarre necrophiliac scene that turned up unexpectedly, well, I don't know where to begin on that one.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

YouTube Treasures #2: Film - I Start Counting (1969)

As I mentioned before, YouTube is a repository of lots of cultural gems, a treasure trove of obscure and unobtainable film, music etc.  Yesterday I stumbled upon a forgotten film from the tail end of the swinging 60s, starring a very young Jenny Agutter, just before she made the perenially popular The Railway Children. The film was I Start Counting, an exploration of sexual awakening, a murder mystery - probably one of the first serial killer films - and a document of 60s social change.

I Start Counting  was directed by then up-and-coming director David Greene (The Shuttered Room, The Strange Affair), but it flopped and quickly disappeared from view, stalling his career somewhat. The reason for its commercial failure, I'd guess, is the hint of lechery in its exploration of a teenage girl's adolescent rites of passage. The promotional stills from the film actually exaggerated this aspect of the film, as if it was a selling point. More likely, it turned people off and made the film look more tawdry than it really is.

I Start Counting  takes a central focus somewhat reminiscent of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. In Shadow, a young girl comes to suspect that the handsome and charming uncle she adores is actually a murderer. In Counting, a young girl named Wynne (Agutter) is in love with her foster-brother, George (Bryan Marshall), but when a number of women are murdered in the neighbourhood, she notes a few circumstances that indicate he is the murderer. Unlike the Hitchcock film, there's an overtly sexual component in Wynne's feelings for George. As she becomes more convinced of his guilt, her fantasizing about him grows stronger, and she dreams that she can protect him from detection, and redeem him from his violent urges.

I Start Counting opens in Wynne's bedroom, and the predominance of white in the colour scheme signifies her innocence and childishness. The shots showing her get dressed verge on the territory of the exploitation genre, without ever quite "going there", as it were. Not quite exploitation, but a little risque for mainsteam audiences, and this is the line the film walks throughout. Quickly enough her incestuous desires are made clear, and George's suspect behaviour is also quickly indexed. Then we're introduced to Wynne's best friend, Corinne. Corinne is kind of a slut, not to put to fine a point on it. Her silly laugh, flirtatious behaviour and crass obsession with losing her virginity make her a counterpoint to Wynne, whose love for her brother is pure by comparison.

The film couldn't explore sex in the 60s without mentioning the Church, and there follows a funny scene in the girls' school when a priest comes to give a talk on sex education, but rather than educate he tries to fudge with talk of God's love and such, but the girls ask him some awkward questions. It's a nice piece of satire on sexual reticence, and one of a handful of nicely-judged comic scenes that appear in the film.

Mostly, though, this is a vehicle for Agutter, then just beginning to become a well-known face and name in Britain. She is both very attractive and possessed of a particular sincerity and ingenuousness - a potent combination. Her performance is excellent, delivering with great naturalism lines that could easily have created awkwarness or self-consciousness. Check out the scene when she arrives home drunk, for example. The charm of her performance easily carries the film.

Whether the film would be so watchable without Agutter at its centre is another question. It's hard to divorce the rest of the film from its star, and judge it on its own terms. Is it an exploration of sexuality or a male fantasy of female sexuality? I was sometimes reminded of the recent Black Swan, which was less an exploration of madness than a male fantasy of female sexual neurosis. In Counting we've got a beautiful young female protagonist whose romantic feelings lead her to excuse the violent acts she believes her foster-brother has committed. Violence is always near the surface in the depictions of male sexuality in the film, while the love of a beautiful woman is posited as the civilizing force that restrains the beast in man - rather Victorian, but perhaps not without some truth for all that.

But Counting shows enough insight into societal attitudes to sex, and into the psychology of sexuality, to be well worth a watch, and it's got a few funny scenes, too. And, of course, there's Jenny Agutter's performance. It's astonishing that this film is not on general release, and hasn't been, I believe, for many years. But that's where YouTube comes in, rescuing stuff like this from obscurity, and allowing it to be seen, completely free of charge, by anyone who cares to watch it. And in this case, this is a film that definitely deserves to be seen.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lord Dunsany's Last Book of Wonder

Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) is little enough read nowadays, and seems to be mostly noted as an influence on H.P. Lovecraft. But Dunsany was a great writer, and didn’t have that much in common with Lovecraft, though the latter considered him a great influence. Dunsany certainly had a better sense of humour - not difficult, admittedly.

Image from

My introduction to Lord D. came with the volume Time and the Gods (Millenium, 2000 ("Fantasy Masterworks" series)). This volume includes 6 collections of D.'s stories, all from his early career: from his first, The Gods of Pegana (1905) to The Last Book of Wonder (1916). All fit into what now would be called fantasy, but they show an interesting progression. My preference is for the later stuff, and I think The Last Book of Wonder is the best of the lot.

What's immediately notable about Dunsany is his sumptuous prose style: very King James Bible-ish and classically inflected. The 20th century doesn't intrude into his style at all, and he's a real master of his chosen style. He's also great at coming up with names - "the greatest of name-coiners", in Lovecraft's words. Sardathrian, Inzana, Limpang-Tung, to take some from the opening pages. But this sort of thing won't endear him to all, though you can't help but admire the writing, and indeed the quality of his imagination.

The later stories, like those in The Last Book of Wonder, show the same stylistic virtuosity and lush imagination, but what makes these short (mostly very short, a lot only 4 or 5 pages) stories such a pleasure is the edge of mockery that gradually appears. Take, for example, "Why the Milkman Shudders when he Perceives the Dawn", its very title combining grandiose language with the most prosaic of contexts, for what could be less grandiose than the profession of milkman? (No offense to persons of that profession). More and more the everyday world starts invading Dunsany's tales, to ridiculous effect, though his prose never loses its cool, or descends to the level appropriate to the banalities it is documenting - and that, indeed, is its charm.

Another interesting story in The Last Book of Wonder is "The Three Infernal Jokes". If you've seen that Monty Python "Funniest Joke in the World" sketch you'll see that Dunsany pre-empted them by over 50 years with this tale of a man who meets a mysterious stranger who offers him three jokes on three pieces of paper, each of which will cause all hearers to die of laughter. Once used, though, the joke erases itself from the paper and when the protagonist tries to repeat it, he finds it has no effect. Dunsany gives the text of one of the jokes as repeated without the paper by the man, and it's decidedly unfunny, but, as the narrator notes: "No joke sounds quite so good the second time it is told." And, anyway, who's to know if he remembers it right? It seems unlikely that the Pythons were actually familiar with Dunsany's story, probably more a case of great minds think alike. Dunsany got there first, though, but not a lot of people know that.

Best of all, for me, is the chess story "The Three Sailors' Gambit". Dunsany was a highly respected chess player and this ingenious tale concerns a crystal ball that informs its possessor of the correct move at any point in any chess game, against any master of the game. Three somewhat dim-witted sailors use it to win small sums of money from challengers in public houses, and so on. The humour partly lies in the contrast between the aloof and refined prose of Dunsany and the coarse speech of the sailors as they apparently perform feats of chess playing unknown to men. It's a great story.

The Last Book of Wonder is available to read free online. Which is nice.
The volume I mentioned with 6 early Dunsany collections is available at Amazon US at the link below

Also at Amazon UK:

Of course, lots of other collections/anthologies of his stories are available as well, some of more recent vintage.

Lord D. hit the big screen a few years ago with a film of his 1936 novella My Talks with Dean Spanley (film just called Dean Spanley, and starring Sam Neill, Peter O'Toole and Jeremy Northam). A very good film, too, I might add. Not sure if that's the first ever film of one of his works, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. Anyway, in conclusion, Dunsany is a really beautiful writer, and deserves to be more widely read than he is, and some of his works show an excellent line in dry, understated wit.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Demos - Unadulterated Genius

YouTube is a treasure trove for many reasons; for me, one of the greatest reasons is the presence of the Pete Townshend Lifehouse home demos, his one-man band recordings from 1970-71 that were to form the backbone of an ambitious project involving audience participation, transcendental oneness and a mind-bogglingly complicated story. As Pete said about Lifehouse: "It was like the Brabazon aircraft of the 50s, magnificent in concept and appearance but too big to get off the ground." From the ashes of this project came The Who's massive 1971 album Who's Next, containing "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". Great as that album is - and it is great - it is but a pale shadow of what Lifehouse would have been.

Pete's demo for 1972 non-album single "Relay", originally a part of the Lifehouse project.

For the Lifehouse project, Pete had prepared about 20 new compositions in demo form. "Demo" probably isn't the right term as it wasn't just Pete plonking away on guitar and singing along. All the instruments were overdubbed by Pete for a full band version. He was heavily into synthesizers at this time, and programmed them for the basic track, then played guitar, bass, drums and whatever else needed to be played. So before the rest of The Who had even heard the tracks, there was a set of high-quality recordings, which are great music in their own right, and set Townshend's extraordinary talent and vision in greater relief.

The quality of the Lifehouse songs is uniformly high. In fact, it seems as it Townshend was incapable of writing a bad song at this point. That's my impression listening to this stuff, anyway. Genius in full flow. Pete did release a massive 6-CD set called The Lifehouse Chronicles in 1999, and released it on his personal website. It's no longer on sale, but second-hand copies can be found around and about. have it going for $325 a pop. $325! You'd be a fool not to buy it! Nah, I'm joking. That's actually quite expensive. Pete also released a one-disc version called Lifehouse Elements at a more affordable price. Can't say I've heard it, but it sounds like a good alternative.

There's also a DVD of a concert Pete did in 2000 in which he performed all Lifehouse songs. It was a "tribute to Lifehouse" rather than a Lifehouse performance. That's an important distinction because an actual Lifehouse performance would have demanded all sorts of audience participation and searching for the universal note that expressed all the audience and players, along the lines of what Pete outlined in "Pure and Easy", the first song written for Lifehouse, and the genesis of the concept.

Lifehouse demo version of "Pure and Easy". Very long.

No, I haven't bought that DVD either, but have relied on YouTube for all my Lifehouse needs. However, someday, when money is less of an object, I will buy the Lifehouse Chronicles boxset, and it will take pride of place in my CD collection, because I think in 100 years time people will see Pete's body of work from that time in 1970/71 as one of the great songwriting achievements of rock music.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Kevin Myers, Rudyard Kipling and Imperialist Rhetoric

It should, I suppose, come as no surprise that Kevin Myers’s poet of choice is Rudyard Kipling, “the poet of empire” as he was known, and as Kipling’s own official website proudly proclaims. In Myers’s Independent column of yesterday, 9 August 2011, he quoted a verse of Kipling’s on the solder’s life in Afghanistan in the late 19th century, as part of his tribute to 37 US soldiers killed in a helicopter crash.

Myers is our day and our country’s  prosodic poet of empire, a “believer in the American imperium”, as he puts it in his orotund way. “It is the most benign global force that there has existed… It is an association of the free. No one has to join.” 

Myers has, I suspect, been reading a lot of Kipling and other 19th century imperialists, as he is coming out with a rhetoric very much of the same sort. Aside from the fact he’s talking about the US and not Britain, it’s the very same. Is he nostalgic for the old times when Britannia ruled the waves? And now he seeks to approximate this golden age in the form of an US empire, “a benign global force”, if such a thing is not a contradiction in terms: benignity won’t get any force very far along the road to global domination.

Kipling was originator of that famous phrase “the white man’s burden”. His poem of that name is a stirring ode to imperialism:

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples
Half devil and half child.

Half devil and half child. Nice. And so on over several verses. The sort of stuff, I am sure, that Kevin Myers gets misty-eyed about, and from which he has learned many lessons of rhetoric. It is the same exhortatory and inflated tone that Myers himself aims at. It can be a powerful weapon in competent hands, such as, undoubtedly, Kipling’s. Another Kipling favourite is “Ulster 1912”, an address to the unionists of Northern Ireland as the spectre of Home Rule loomed:
The dark eleventh hour
Draws on and sees us sold
To every evil power
We fought against of old -
Rebellion, rapine, hate,
Oppression, wrong and greed
Are loosed to rule our fate
By England's art and deed.

The faith in which we stand,
The laws we made and guard,
Our honour, lives, and land
Are given for reward
To murder done by night
To treason taught by day,
To folly, sloth, and spite,
And we are thrust away

The evil powers of rebellion, rapine, hate. That would be the Irish Catholics, I suppose. Hardly an even-handed approach to the problem of Home Rule. Folly, sloth and spite as well. As an Irishman, I find this a nasty piece of work. But anyway, the rhetoric of English dominion over Ireland was always the same as the rhetoric of empire in other parts of the world, and it’s the same as Myers’s pro-American spiel:

“What we are seeing in the Hindu Kush is part of an epochal struggle between the primal and the complex: between the nihilism of jihadist fundamentalism, and rule of reason, law and science. There is no guarantee that the latter will prevail.”
America is reason, law and science and Afghanistan is nihilism. Simple. When one can see the world in such binary terms it’s easy to justify imperialism. But given how close Myers is ideologically to English imperialists of bygone days, I wonder what his attitude to the old British Empire and British rule in Ireland is. I’m not familiar enough with the entire body of his work to know – and don’t intend to attain that familiarity – but still I would like to know, because his line of reasoning seems to assume the more technologically advanced nation is necessarily superior, and has the right, nay the duty, to stamp its foot down on the lesser race, for what end I’m not sure.

Having been recently reading Thomas Carlyle and some other commentators on English imperialism and the Irish question, I find echoes of that attitude in Myers, and it is there, too, in the studiedly patrician tones of his voice; a man who clearly likes to consider himself of an emperor race. Not knowing his full geneology, I believe he is second-generation Irish, so I would be interested to know his views on the anti-Irish aspect of Kipling, who he quotes so admiringly. Does he note any similarity in how Kipling saw the Irish and how he saw the people of the Indian subcontinent? Does he see any similarity in Kipling’s Irish and his, Myers, view of Afghans and the like? Even better, read Carlyle on the Irish. Had Kevin Myers been born some generations earlier he, as an Irishman, would have been spoken about as he now speaks of Afghans. Does this fact give him any pause for thought at all? Even for the briefest moment? That is what I’d like to know.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Cork Playground Smoking Ban, and the Dangers of Taboo

Several county councils are apparently considering banning smoking in playgrounds, and the topic has already come up for discussion in Cork County Council, where it appears likely that a bylaw is to be passed to that effect, perhaps as early as September. Councillor Deirdre Forde has brought the matter to her council, inevitably at the instigation of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Ireland. The reasons Councillor Forde gives are three:

1 The dangers of second-hand smoke for young children
2 The probability of children imitating behaviour they had seen from adults
3 The cost to the council of cleaning up cigarette butts.

I'm primarily interested in the second reason, or non-reason, as I deem it, but briefly on the other two: the theory of second-hand smoke being dangerous in an outside environment seems an untenable one, especially as the parents smoke on the margins of the playground, rather than in the vicinity of the playing children. Forde admitted that councillors had asked for more data on this problem, and I would guess that data will not be forthcoming, as any link between this type of "exposure" to second-hand smoke and health problems is unlikely to exist, as there is simply too much distance between, and fresh air around, the smokers and the children. The third reason is one that has nothing to do with smoking, as it could just as easily apply to the cost of cleaning up food wrappers or any other kind of litter. It's a littering issue, and is provided for under the law as such.

The Effects of Taboo

But what gets on my nerves is this idea of the imitativeness of children: smoking in playgrounds is to be banned because children must not see adults smoking. To quote Councillor Forde: "We must avoid passing on this learned behaviour. We don’t want children growing up and smoking themselves." Is it suggested that we are to hide the fact of smoking from children? And is it suggested that this means that when they do discover the truth about this mysterious, secretive habit that they will want nothing to do with it. This is a very Victorian notion, that if we create a taboo around something, it might go away.

Rather, the opposite is quite likely in this case. Smoking by virtue of its taboo nature gains an attraction it does not intrinsically have. Because smoking is not attractive. No child likes the idea of filling their lungs with smoke, and they generally find smoking disgusting. The time when it becomes attractive is in adolescence. And the creation of a taboo reinforces that attraction, creates an additional aura of adult glamour around an activity that, allowed to appear in its true light, is not glamorous or attractive. The more we concentrate on shielding children from the notion of smoking, dishonestly pretending it doesn't exist, the more we ensure its continued hold on their imagination. Thus is the power of taboo.

Why should children imitate any behaviour they see? I often watched my mother perform the housework as a child without ever feeling the urge to imitate her. Children don't just blindly imitate everything they see an adult do. They imitate what looks like fun to them. Smoking does not look like fun. It's just an unimaginative and dull simplification to pretend that hiding the existence of the smoking habit from children will have a positive effect. In any case, how much of children's exposure to smoking takes place in a playground? But that's beside the point: the point is, one, that creating taboos is counter-productive, and, two, that children shouldn't be taken for mindless idiots who mimic what they see. What is, is, and it doesn't change by pretending it is not. So, unless you're convinced your kids are particularly stupid and prone to destructive habits, show them the world as it is, and let them find out for themselves what's worth copying and what isn't.

Friday, 15 July 2011

An Emperor Only Partially Clothed: Review of The Guard (dir. John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson)


Good Irish films are like buses in that you wait for ages for one to come along, but that's where the similarity ends - what usually happens is, when the film does come along, it turns out to be rubbish. The Guard has got a lot of positive advance press, a big hit at Sundance, apparently. Writer-director John Michael McDonagh is certainly confident in his movie, otherwise he wouldn't risk such comments as: "A lot of Irish films fall by the wayside, mainly because they're rubbish."

The Guard obviously invites comparisons with In Bruges, one of the last Irish films to be greeted with any widespread enthusiasm: both are comedy noir, violent and irreverent, and both star Brendan Gleeson. And, of course, it was McDonagh's famous playright brother Martin McDonagh who wrote and directed In Bruges. Gleeson's character is on the other side of the law here - he's a guard, duh - but otherwise he's a similar character. He's a maverick cop, a renegade, a loose cannon - the only type of cop they make films about. He's at once debauched and sanctified - he likes hookers and coke, but he can't be bribed, and he can discuss Dostoyevsky. The film works by playing off the two sides of Gleeson's Sergeant Boyle, using Gleeson's lived-in and expressive face to get across the ambiguities of the character.

The other main character is less ambiguous, Don Cheadle's cardboard cut-out straight man, FBI agent Wendell Everett, who has no life of his own beyond reaction with surprise- amusement- exasperation or whatever to Boyle's shenanigans. Boyle's mother is played by respected actress Fionnuala Flanagan, and her character also lacks substance, completely based on the rude-remarks-are-funny-when-made-by-old-people idea. Not original, and Flanagan doesn't deliver the orgy and drug-taking jokes with much gusto. Also not original is the scumbag-crooks-who-discuss-weighty-intellectual-matters idea, which comes in in the portrayal of the drug dealers, who we find discussing Schopenhauer and Neitzsche, or at least quoting them, though the suspicion is it's just name-dropping, as nothing relevant to either of those philosophers is actually said. The intellectual name-dropping, both by the crooks and by Boyle, comes across as half-baked, as at no point do any of them evince any real familiarity with the subjects they're talking about.

The most jarring moment for me came with Boyle's response to being called a fool by Everett: "You didn't know people in the West of Ireland speak Irish, and I'm the fool!" I submit that no person from the West of Ireland would ever make the general statement that "people in the West of Ireland speak Irish", simply because it's not true.

Then there's the end. The wishy-washy, nothing-y, lazy ending. I suppose if you wanted to be polite you could call the ending "ambiguous", but I don't, so I'll say it: the ending was rubbish. It didn't cohere with the rest of the film. The film wasn't set up in such a way as to make such an ending acceptable. It was a real damp squib, ending not with a bang but with a whimper.

Looking back over my review, I may have given the impression that I disliked The Guard. Damn, I always do that. In fact, it was a generally enjoyable watch, some nice dialogue, excellent central performance by Brendan Gleeson. Worth seeing, yes. But not The Great Irish Movie, or a great Irish movie, or a very memorable movie. Some work on the script could, I think, have made this a considerably better film. Some less facile characterisations for all the characters bar Sergeant Boyle would have helped. But Gleeson pulls it through, and having just been awarded funding for his adaptation of Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds, it could be an excellent year for this great actor (I wonder who he's playing in At Swim. The Uncle, I suppose). But I digress. I hereby award The Guard 7\10.