This intimate documentary portrait of Ireland in 1967 was the work of Irishman Peter Lennon, a Paris-based Guardian journalist who hired Godard’s cameraman Raoul Coutard to accompany him on a journey home. It’s the breezy camerawork, as informed by Lennon’s critical affection for his homeland, that provides the film’s real pleasure, as we duck in and out of the pubs, universities, sports fields, playgrounds and churches of Ireland – all to a rousing Dubliners soundtrack. Lennon’s thesis – which originated in a series of Guardian articles – is that Ireland missed an opportunity to progress after gaining its independence in 1922, and instead ‘nearly sank under the weight of its own heroes and clergy’ and ‘lived in the shabby afterglow of heroic days that had long since faded’. In retrospect, it’s probably more of an affectionate film than Lennon ever intended, despite its lament for the failure of Irish socialism and the ongoing power of the church. He certainly identifies glimmers of hope in the younger generation. Lennon’s analysis is always lucid but only skims the surface, and Coutard appears more interested in people than politics. The film is preceded by a new making-of documentary.
Friday September 16 2005