Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

25 September 1997 Edition

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Sham Fight at the OK Corral

By Laurence McKeown

I'm involved at the moment in organising a film festival in West Belfast, as readers of last week's An Phoblacht may have noticed. It's going well, if a bit hectic. We've secured quite a number of premieres and are delighted that the new film on the life of Oscar Wilde, entitled Wilde and starring Stephen Fry, will open the festival. We're doubly delighted that Fry, the director and the producer will all attend the showing and will then stay on to conduct a masterclass the following morning. But besides that there are quite a number of gems in the programmes. Something for everyone, as the saying goes.

As I say, things have been hectic and conversation in recent weeks has focused on such topics as the merits of, and differences between, 35 mm, 16 mm, Beta, and Super VHS (you'd almost think they were items Mitchell was trying to decommission.) It got to the point where I began to fear that the festival and the movie world had taken over my whole life and entire thought processes.

It all began one evening as I sat down to watch television. I switched on what I thought to be the news but started to get flashbacks of such films as The Magnificent Seven or The Wild Bunch (definitely not the Wilde bunch). Brilliant films, of course, from innocent childhood days. The baddies, always the Mexicans, would take over an isolated village and terrorise and brutalise the inhabitants until a small group of north American males would ride in at sunrise to their rescue. The latter weren't necessarily good guys in the sense of good-living. They had their own problems and chequered histories, a lot of which they preferred to leave buried, but at the bottom of it all they were decent blokes.

Anyhow, there before my eyes the scene was unfolding. No horses this time, no sand being thrown up, it was some hours past sunrise, no guns clearly visible (though I would estimate that a goodly portion of the actors possessed one) and there were many more than seven of them. They strode along briskly in their conservative pin-stripes, ties flapping in the wind, one hand hanging loosely by their hip, the other clutching a briefcase. This scene was well rehearsed. Up to the holy ground of Stormont they strode, determination evident on their faces. They were men with a mission. They were going to get rid of the baddies and give the building back to its rightful owners. This was just a warning of what was to come.

The baddies though appeared to have either never watched the Magnificent Seven, had no comprehension of the role they were to play, or, in this modern re-make, had either not been given a script or had torn it up. Maybe they were advocates of the Mike Leigh/Les Blair style of film-making where you just take a number of actors, no script, throw them all together, give them a theme and see what come out of it. Either way these baddies just did not have a clue. Instead of hiding below the parapets they blatantly strolled around in their shirt-sleeves looking nonchalant, waved at colleagues arriving, and generally seemed uninterested in whatever other scenes were being acted out before the cameras. Shortly after that the would-be goodies departed. When they next returned it was a different film, different scenes, different roles.

By now I'm unsure as to whether or not I have retained a grip on the real world. The bravado of the magnificent Seven has dimmed somewhat and their leader has now retreated into the comfortable and re-assuring world of legalities. I'm wondering if the script is beginning to develop along the lines of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or could it be yet another soap? Why even ponder such questions? Why not go along instead to the West Belfast Film Festival, 26 September-2 October.

Programmes and more information available on 01232 325913.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1