Michael Dwyer previews the Dublin Film Festival

  • 31 August 1985
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Irish film critics spend half their working days watching movies and the other half complaining about what they have had to endure. With good reason - financial considerations aside, most of the movies released here were not worth making in the first place. For every Witness or Blood Simple, to name the only outstanding releases of the last four months, there are a dozen dumb sequels and another dozen or more inane, scrappily assemmbled teen sex comedies. Meanwhile, hundreds of potentially more interessting movies are made around the world every year, never to be seen on an Irish cinema screen.

Invited to programme the new Dublin Film Festival and given a commpletely free rein, financial consideraations aside, to determine its content, I . set out to prove that there's more to movies than cheap thrills and special effects and that not every movie about young people need be as crass as the latest instalment in the Porky ~or Lemon Popsicle series.

Hence two of the three seasons which make up the Dublin Film Fesstival programme - Unseen On The Screen, an international selection of movies which ought to have been reeleased here but pro bably never will, and Teens On The Screen, a programme of youth : movies from around the world. The third season, Scenes On The Screen, marks the imminent Dublin Theatre Festival with a quirky choice of play-related or theatrically influenced films.

Sixty-two movies will be shown during the eight-day festival in a packed programme which prevents even the most dedicated filmgoer from seeing more than a third of the pictures on offer, and, I hope, creating some unnenviable decisions as to which films to choose from the line-up running simultaneously in the three-cinema Screen at College Street complex.

The festival opens on 1 2 September with the Irish premiere of the most obviously commercial film on the proogramme - Susan Seidelman's Dessperately Seeking Susan, a sparkling comedy of errors starring Rosanna Arquette and media flavour of. the year Madonna. A fine example of inndependent cinema at its most accesssible and entertaining, Desperately Seeking Susan took years to raise its comparatively low budget of four million dollars and young Seidelman has confounded all the studios who turned down her picture by recouping that amount six . times over at the American box-office.

Paired with Desperately Seeking Susan on opening night is a superb half-hour Irish film, The Woman Who Married Clark Gable, based on the Sean 0 Faolain story and directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Set in Dublin at the peak of the city's cinema-going tradition in the 1 930s, the film fea tures Brenda Fricker as the religiously deevout fantasist who begins to believe that her newly moustachioed husband (Bob Hoskins) is the screen idol of her dreams.

The centre-piece of the festival will be a unique Irish screening of the great German epic, Heimat, which covers sixty-three years - from 1919 to 1982 - in the lives oftwo intersecting family circles in a fictional German village. Directed over a period of four years by Edgar Reitz, Heimat runs for fiffteen hours and forty minutes and will be shown in four parts over the Saturrday and Sunday of the festival, 14 and 15 September.

Internationally respected directors whose recent work has not been seen at Irish cinemas include Robert Altman, Satayjit Ray, Werner Herzog, Jonathan Demme, Sam Fuller, Dennis Hopper, Robert Bresson and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, all of whom are represented on the programme. Altman, one of the most resilient mavericks of American cinema, is represented by two films, both based on stage plays.

Staged at the Dublin Theatre Fesstival six years ago, Streamers is a riveeting film of the David Rabe play set in an army barracks as young recruits await the call to Vietnam. The other Altman film, Secret Honour, defies the challenge of presenting a. one-man show on screen and making it work as cinema. Altman succeeds triumphantly with this powerful tour de force by Philip Baker Hall as a flustered, selffjustifying Richard Nixon.

The movie most likely to divide audience reaction during the festival is another innovatively filmed play, Nic Roeg's Insignificance, based on a stage work by Terry Johnson. Set on a hot New York night in 1953, it follows an encounter between an acctress (Theresa Russell), a senator (Tony Curtis), a ball-player (Gary Busey), and a scientist (Michael Emil). Any resem blance to Marilyn Monroe, Joe McCarthy, joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein, respectively, is said to be purely coinciden tal. IiIJ

Proof that life is stranger than ficction is the unlikely US campus circuit debating team of post-hippy professor Timothy Leary and former Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy who first met Leary when he arrested him. Return Engagement is an absorbing documentary of their debates and their professional relationship..

It is doubtful if that film will ever be seen here again, as is also the case with the great majoritydof the films on the programme, notably the critiically acclaimed Martinique production, Rue Cases. Negres; Fassbinder's bold, stylised final film, Querelle, based on the Genet novel; Victor Brice's memoorable picture -of provincial life in the north of Spain in the late forties and early fifties - The South; and the clever pastiche horror movie, Fade To Black, in which an introverted and psychotic young film buff takes his obsession to fatal extremes when he decides that life must imitate art.

Some of the movies on this proogramme are great and some others are wildly overrated. Make up y'our own mind - the opportunity may not arise again.