An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

13 March 1997 Edition

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A timeless tragedy

On its publication Gulliver's Travels was a hugely controversial commentary on the politics of the day. Today its political impact has almost completely dissipated. It is now impossible for a reader in the 1990s to truly grasp the impact of Swift's work.

This week over 60 years since it was first shown in Ireland John Ford's film of the Liam O'Flaherty novel The Informer goes on release again.

Like Swift's Gulliver there are aspects of the screenplay that seem out of place to todya's viewer, but the film's central theme, the tragic useless life of an informer, is still sadly as relevant to an Irish audience as it was 65 years ago.

Ford's film is set over one night in Dublin during the Tan War. It is the story of Gypo Nolan, a volunteer expelled from the IRA for deliberately allowing a Black and Tan he was supposed to execute escape. Gypo finds himself penniless on the streets of Dublin and the plot takes us with him through his rash betrayal and its deadly consequences.

Ford's Dublin is a bleak place, fogbound and filled with British patrols, the plaintive tones of street singers and our tragic central character. Long lingering shots and ominous shadows are prevalent.

The best part of the film, however, is the portrayal of the pub rabble that the informer lives on the edges of. Here is something timeless and a trip today into any of Dublin's hostelries, even the most upmarket spots, will find the same collection of sots that Ford brings to life in this film.

How real though are Ford's Volunteers who track Gypo down? Their commandant looks and talks like a New York 1930s private detective, while his troops have a tendency to shoot and miss with remarkable regularity. The difference between this portrayal and Neil Jordan's Michael Collins is striking.

This film is well worth seeing on the big screen, the only problem is that it will only be shown in Dublin, meaning a trip to the capital for lucky audiences.


When We Were Kings
Documentary review

When Ali was King

My personal pick of the Dublin Film Festival has to be When We Were Kings, the story of Mohammad Ali's greatest triumph, the Rumble In the Jungle, when he knocked out the world champion, George Foreman, to regain his crown.

Shown last Saturday, this 88-minute documentary featured amazing music from BB King, James Brown and others, including, finally, the Fugees as the credits rolled. The filmmakers unearthed original footage rarely seen before while the story itself was enhanced by the participation of leading sports reporters who witnessed the long wind-up to the great event. Their narration and personal involvement in affairs had a cutting edge which 22 years had failed to dull.

One theme explored was the emergence of a young, charismatic and ambitious fight promoter, the man who made it all come together, one Don King. But the star of the film was the man who was bigger than a boxer, more than a great champion, the mouth himself, Ali. He out-talked, outpsyched, outsmarted and finally, outboxed Foreman but the event itself reached mythical proportions.

Afterwards Ali could lay claim to be the most famous man in the world. He was a potent symbol of resistance and success. The symbolism of the fight taking place in Africa and how that reflected on the Black Consciousness Movement in America was palpable throughout. Ali had stood up to the American establishment at every opportunity, whether by joining the Nation of Islam or choosing jail rather than be drafted to fight in Vietnam.

The Foreman fight was the culmination of his comeback and not many gave him a chance. George Foreman was reckoned to be virtually unbeatable, had demolished the best boxers around, including Ken Norton and Joe Frasier. And yet Ali won, enraging his opponent, letting him box himself out and finally exploding off the ropes in the eighth round to score an unforgettable knockout. The defeated champion retired, such was the psychological impact of the fight.

Ali, despite his latter-day affliction with Parkinson's Disease, remains a living legend. This film was a celebration of the magic and intelligence, the incredible charm and wit, the presence, integrity and bravery of Mohammad Ali, one of my all-time heroes. It did him justice and cannot be too highly recommended.


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