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					                                                                                              THE STAR, Friday November 3 2006 43




                                          ON A ROAD TO NOWHERE
                                          THE unusual movie. Red Road, tells                     One day a man (Tony Curran)
                                          the story of Jackie (Kate Dickie) who                appears on her monitor, a man she
                                          works as a CCTV operator.                            thought she would never see again, a
                                            Each day she watches over a small                  man she never wanted to see again.
                                          part of the world, protecting the people               Now she has no choice, she is
                                          living their lives under her gaze.                   compelled to confront him.




                                         Forgive us our sins
                                         AN UNHINGED Protestant minister
                                         returns to his backwater hometown to
                                                                                              Caroline (Eva Birthistle).
                                                                                               However, Gabriel's godly intentions
                                         clear it of sinners — starting with his              and religious fanaticism mask a dark
                                         own family.                                          and malevolent heart with sadistic and
                                           Preacher         Gabriel      (Matthew             psychotic tendencies.
                                         Macfadyen) returns home like the prodi-
                                          ;al son to a fictional Northern Irish vil-
                                          age called Middletown.                                Gabriel's mission sparks off major con-
                                           He finds the town's inhabitants given              flicts within his family and the wider
                                         over to vice and sin via illegal business            community, as his increasingly fanatical
                                         dealings, cock fighting and patronising              behaviour wreaks devastating conse-
                                         the local pub more than the pulpit.                  quences.
                                           Determined to save the souls of                       Verdict: Middletown is a chilling
                                         his flock, he sets about imposing                         movie that reflects on a depressing
                                         a new order — and first port of                             time in Ireland when religious
                                         call is his father (Gerard                                     fanaticism ruled communities
                                         McSprley), brother Jim                                          with an iron fist.
                                         (Daniel Mays), and Jim's                                          Macfadyen is impressive as
                                         heavily       pregnant      wife                                the seriously unhinged Gabriel,
                                                                                                     1
                                                                                                         and there's excellent support
                                                                                                        from the Irish cast.
                                                                                                         At times unbearably tense and
                                                                                                       deeply shocking, Middletown
                                                Cert: I5a                                              won't be winning any 'feel-good
                                                                                                            movie of the year' titles but
items such as etiquette training
                                               Running time:                                                             this is unques-
rodeo footage and a particularly                Starring...                                                                 tionably one of
funny 'interview' with a feminist                                                                                             the best Irish
group.
                                                Matthew Macfadyen, Daniel                                                      films
  Though you have to watch carefully
                                                 Mays, Gerard McSorley                                                          released
to figure out in which parts they are          GENRE: Drama                                                                       this year.
using actors and the scenes where the           Director: BRIAN KIRK
people heS interviewing are real.
  It all makes for many cringeworthy
scenes which are also side-splittingly
funny — one of the funniest films I ve
seen this year.                                 I I I ! N A T I O N A L CONl


        *****                                     The Snowman Movie
                                                               Live Concert \\-niii :nn</ Oovic
                                                                                                                  ttMITftt   •il f l j ! .   AVAttABtf


                                                                                                            >pm/7.30pm
                                                Friday 5 January 2007 5.30pm/8pm
                                                Orchestra of The National Concert Hall
                                                Michael d'Arcy leader • David Brophy conductor
                                                Craig Doyle narrator • Spotlight Stage School
                                                Devin O'Shea-Farren boy soprano
                                                Tickets: €18 Adults, €14 Children
                                                Family tickets available
                                                Produced in association with Joseph Lloyd Productions
            movies




            actress Eva Birthistle's star is on
 the rise and she's got the awards to prove it
          RETTY and petite                                               (before he became super-             was waitressing — I didn't really




P
          Irish actress Eva           by Annette O'Meara                 famous) but refuses to talk about    have a choice.
          Birthistle is hav-                                             him and is generally very media        "I wasn't doing a lot of work
                                    by Ken Loach who won this            shy.                                 and I was living in an expensive
          ing a fabulous            year's Palme d'Or at Cannes for        This month sees Eva playing        part of an expensive city," she
         year both person-          The Wind That Shakes the             one of the central characters in     says referring to posh Netting
         ally and profes-           Barley.                              dark      and    tense     drama     Hill in London.
sionally.                             She was also nominated in the      Middletown about a zealous              But it looks like her apron is
  Last February the blonde          same category at the Scottish        Protestant minister (played by       well and truly hung up for good
 Dubliner was voted joint winner    BAFTAs and at the British            Matthew       Macfadyen) who         now with roles in Hiddletown,
                                    Independent Film Awards.             returns to cleanse his hometown      BBC's The State Within and she's
 (with Kate Winslet) for British      Eva was offered her first fea-
Actress of the Year Award at the                                         of sinners in the North.             currently filming Nightwatching
London Film Critic's Awards.        ture film, All Soul's Day by Alan      Eva plays the minister's feisty    in Poland — an extravagant look
  She scooped the award (or at      Gilsenan in 1997 which was           sister-in-law Caroline, who is       at artist Rembrandt's romantic
least half of it) for her winning   closely followed by work on          married to his younger brother       and professional life.
 portrayal of Roisin, an Irish      Peter Sheridan's Borstal Boy,        Jim (played by Daniel Mays) and        She's also just finished making
Catholic teacher working in         Saltwater for Conor McPherson,       works as a barmaid in the local      The State Within which she
Glasgow who falls in love with an   The      American        alongside   pub.                                 describes as a blend of The West
Asian Muslim in Ae Fond Kiss.       Matthew Modine and Diana Rigg,                                            Wing meeting 24.
  "I was absolutely delighted          and Timbuktu again for Alan                                               Born in Dublin Eva lived there
                                                                               VA has racked up



                                                                         E
but Kate was probably rag-               Gilsenan.                                                            until she was 14, after which the
                                             This year she also had a          an impressive act-
ing," Eva was reported^                                                                                       family moved to the North
                                             part in the critically            ing CV in the past             where she encountered difficul-
to have said at the,'                        , acclaimed Breakfast on
time.                                                                           11 years since she            ties as a southern Catholic girl
  "Actually, Kate didn                          Pluto, and in the              graduated from the             attending a Protestant school.
even show up so                                  romantic       drama    Gaiety School of Acting.               "I used to get notes like 'Get
have no idea how                                  Imagine Me and You.       She worked on RTE's Glenroe       out you Fenian bitch'," she says,
she felt."                                               She famously    for three years before moving to     an experience which she admits
  Eva also won                                          - -dated Colin   London six years ago.                toughened her up a lot — no
the         Best                                            -Jarrell        There she secured work on         harm perhaps given that her
Actress title                                                 years      Holby City and Silent Witness.       future chosen career.
                                                               ago       She also had a small part Jimmy         All of Eva's undoubted profes-
at the Irish
Film      and                                                            McGovern's stirring docudrama        sional success this year however
Television                                                               Sunday and an uncredited part in     pales in comparison to the event
Awards                                                                   Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday.      which will close a very successful
(IFTAs)                                                                     She also appeared in John         and happy 2006.
for her                                                                  Strickland's TV drama Trust and         On New Year's Eve she will
perfor-                                                                  film roles included Saltwater,       marry her longtime boyfriend
mance                                                                    Borstal Boy and Mystics.             Raife Burchell who is a session
in the                                                                       Eva supported herself like all   drummer for many bands includ-
                                                                         good actresses — by waitressing.     ing The Lightning Seeds. Looks
                                                                            "Whenever I wasn't working I      like 2007 is certainly set to be
                                                                                                               her year.
                                                         TOP PERFORMANCE: Eva plays a                            • Middletown Is now show-
                                                         blinder in dark drama Middletown                      ing in cinemas nationwide.
                                                                                                                          also showing
                                                                                 Middletown
                                                                                 (limited, nationwide)
                                                                                 Director: Brian Kirk
                                                                                 Starring: Matthew Macfadyen,
                                                                                 Eva Birthistle
                                                                                 Reviewer: Michael Doherty
                                                                                 Running Time: 88m
                                                                                 Rating: *****
                                                                                 Classification: 15A

                                                                                 Plot A zealous minister returns home
                                                                                 with a mission to clean up his own parish.
                                                                                 Verdict Traditionally, a tale about religious oppression set in a rural Northern Irish
                                                                                 milieu would have one reaching for the service revolver. Too often in the past, this
                                                                                 particular genre has been the graveyard of good sense and a haven of bad art.
                                                                                 Thankfully, Kirk and his team are too skilled as filmmakers to fall into that trap, with
                                                                                 the result that Middletown is one of the finest films to emerge from Ireland in many
                                                                                 years.
                                                                                   Beautifully shot in a gothic style by Seamus McGarvey, Middletown is the story of
                                                                                 a zealous minister (Matthew Macfadyen), who returns from the missions to take
                                                                                 over the pastoral reins of his home village from easygoing Mick Lally, much to the
                                                                                 delight of his father, Gerard McSorley, and his brother, Daniel Mays. Soon, however,
                                                                                 they realise that the new man is now on a mission to stamp out all the perceived
                                                                                 vice in the region, even if it means turning his family and friends against him.
                                                                                 Wellwritten by Daragh Carville, Middletown is a superbly acted and beautifully shot



Movie star, me like!                                                             drama Indeed, feature film debutant, Kirk, frames and lights every shot with skill
                                                                                 and precision redolent of the great Terence Davies. Watch out for this guy.




Borat                                   People of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron
                                        Cohen has delivered a comedy gem.
                                                                                 A Good Year
                                                                                 (Nationwide)
Cultural Learnings of America to Make   You have to admire the jockey's neck     Director: Ridley Scott
Benefit Glorious People of Kazakhstan   of the guy as he unmercilessly takes
                                                                                 Starring: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney
(nationwide)                            the mickey out of his host country.      Reviewer: Michael Doherty
Director: Larry Charles                 The plot (such as it is) has reporter    Running Time: 118m
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Pamela     Borat travelling across the "US and A"   Rating: *****
Anderson                                to learn about America and marry         Classification: 12A
Re^ewer: Michael Doherty                Pamela Anderson (don't ask). Along
Running Time: 82m                       the way he insults just about every      Plot A high-powered London broker
          * *
Rating: * * *                           group (feminists, street gangstas,       finds himself seduced by a French vineyard.
Classification: 16                      Jews, gays, Southerners) and barely      Verdict Following their successful collaboration on Gladiator, Scott and Crowe are back
                                        manages to escape with his life when     in tandem for this slightly (!) more leisurely tale. Based on Peter Mayle's adventures in
Plot A TV reporter from Kazakhstan      he mangles the national anthem at a      Provence, A Good Year finds Crowe playing a high-powered London broker whose life
travels to America for some cultural    local rodeo. It would ruin things to     takes a huge turn when his uncle (Albert Finney) dies and leaves him an idyllic property
insights.                               give away too much, but one              in France. Predictably (and this is the film's big problem), our man has to decide
Venfict Forget the awful Ali G          sequence, reminiscent of Alan Bates      between the rat race, where he is surrounded by unscrupulous businessmen, and the
Indahouse, with his latest movie,       and Oliver Reed in Ken Russell's         vineyard, where he is surrounded by local French lovely, Marion Cotillard. No prizes for
Borat: Cultural Learnings of            Women in Love, will have the             guessing which he chooses. Though it's well shot and well acted (Finney also scores
America to Make Benefit Glorious        audience on the floor with laughter.     well), A Good Year is also very, very slight. Crowe is fine at romancing Gallic crackers,
                                                                                 but his attempts at knockabout comedy are decidedly less successful.



 Celebrity desert island DVDs                                                        (   I Mi     IJ        , i
 This week's castaway is actor
                                                                                   To mark the release of A Good Year, Fox
 Liam Cunningham                                                                   has given us 5 picnic sets and 5 picnic
 His latest film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley
                                                                                   blankets to give away this week. Each set
 (Pathe), is currently available to buy on DVD
                                                                                   includes a picnic rucksack with wine
                                                                                   carrier, cutlery set, branded napkins, plate
 1 Apocalypse Now. Brando's big speech
                                                                                   set and two glasses. Just answer the
 was my audition piece for acting school.
 2 The Godfather series: A no-brainer really;                                      following question and send your answer, on
 perfection on celluloid.                                                          a postcard with your name and address, to:
                                                                                   MovieGuide/ Good Year Competition, TO
 3 Jeremiah Johnson: Me and my da watched it one night. It was a
 father/son thing.                                                                 Box 1480, RTt Dublin 4.
                                                                                   Question: What was the name of the
 4 Un Coeur en Hiver. What Hollywood couldn't make in a million
 years.                                                                            character portrayed by Russell Crowe in
 5 It's a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra always manages to batter the                 Gladiator?
 cynic out of me with this one.
                                                                                 *****Classic      *****Excellent     *****6ood *****Fair            *****Tragic

44 RT£ GUIDE
26      News Letter, Friday, November 3, 2006



Arts                          in association with                                                                                                                         www.belfasttoday.net




                                                    Game
                                                   Central
   GAME OF THE WEEK
NEED FOR SPEED CARBON
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Price: E4939
TURBO-charged racing on the city streets and in precarious
canyons.
Fancy a free-roaming city for you to get your teeth into,
bigger than that seen in Need For Speed Most Wanted?
You've got it, and its yours for the taking, as you race for
block-by-block control by taking down rival crews on their
turl
But youl need to teave the streets to battle their bosses in
the canyons outside the urban centre, which is where
Carbon really comes into its own,
Al-new Canyon Duel and Drift race modes prove to be the
ultimate test of skill and nerve in this series, where one
wrong turn could cost you more than the race.
Thts is gorgeous, adrenalin-packed racing at its fastest and
you cant afford to ignore this sumptuous, super-charged
spread that EA have laid before us!
Rating: -****

MORTAL KOMBAT: ARMAGEDDON
                                                       Swapping format, but never giving up
Platform: PS2 Genre:
                                                       anything in quality, PS3 owners can now
Fighting Price: E2999
                                                       continue their GTA adventure on the move,
The Mortal Kombat series has spawned
                                                       slipping back into the 1980s where cream
numerous fighting trttes in a history spanning
wel over a decade, with varying degrees of             jackets with steeves roied up and Bonnie
success.                                               Tyler hair on men was cooL Think Miami
Thankfully, Armageddon marks a return to the           Vice, with attitude and you're there. And
upper echelons of over-the-top beat 'em up             what a treat this is - an entirety new storyfine
action for PS2 fans. With the most complete MK         and selection of missions for you to romp
roster ever, including nearly every character          your way through in Vice City, where the
from the Mortal Kombat universe (past, present         vibe is glamour, power and corruption...
and future) and a revolutionary Create-A-Pighter       Graphically, these games dazzle like few
mode, this is B<e manna from heaven for fans of        others on the PSP screen and you could be
the franchise.                                         forgiven for thinking your PS2 had shrunk in
Not onfy that, but the Create-A-Fatafity mode tets     the wash. If s as engaging and addictive as
gamers create their own custom fatalities by            ever, and a sure-fire reason for missing your
stringing together a wealth of attacks via a series     bus stop. Get it and get down to that retro
of button combos. Those that then prove worthy
                                                       groove.
can take their very own death moves onfine to
showcase to the world - Kreative Killing you            Rating: *-*** -'.-
might say!
Rating: ****..-                                        THE BIBLE GAME
                                                       Platform: GBA
BUZZ! JUNIOR: JUNGLE PARTY                             Genre: Refigion Price:
Platform: PS2 Genre: Puzzfe                            This game casts players as contestants on
Price; £24.99                                          a show with fast-paced, 'beat the buzzed
Want to give family gatherings a Buzz this             action, with hundreds of questions to
Christmas? We're approaching the party                 perplex the unenlightened about
season, and there's no doubt that family               inspirational Old Testament teachings. Think
interactive experiences like the Buzz! series on       carefully before buying.
PS2 wi be bringing relatives round the TV and
then to blows over the festive period, so let1 s be    Rating: *•*
thankful that developers have thought to include
the kids, too. Buzz! Junior: Jungte Party moves
away from the quiz-show host styte of the more
grown-up versions, preferring to concentrate on
                                                               GAMES CHART
simple reflex-driven gameplay, a cheeky Buzz!
                                                        1. Football Manager 2007
sense of humour and a heavy dose of fun.
Despite the simplified timing or colour-based           2. FIFA 07
stimuS for gameplay that wiH capture kids'              a The Sims 2: Pets
attention for hours, if s difficult to know who will    4. Scarface: The World is Yours
have more fun, them or the parents. And, after a
                                                        5 Tom Clancys Splinter Cell: Double
sherry or seven, it's just as hard to know who
might emerge victorious! Great stuff.
 Rating: ***iV6                                         & Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
                                                        7. Battlefield 2142
GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY                             a Cars
STORIES                                                 ft Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
Platform: PSP                                           10. Championship Manager 2007
Genre: Action                                                                                             STRUGGLE: Matthew Macfadyen plays Gabriel Hunter, Middletown's tormented minister
                                                           Leisure software charts compiled by
Price: £39.99
                                                              ChartTrack, (c) ELSPA (UK) Ltd
ASIM: BOOOFOKOVA




                            OH RE FOf? M
                                                                                                                                                  News Letter, Friday, November 3, 2006           27



www.belfasttoday.net


                                                                                                                                                    MIDDLETOWN REVIEWED


Middletown: a place Chillingreligion
                    of how
                             example

we have all been to and violence clash
                                                                                                                                                BY PHIL CROSSEY




 yJ
                                                                                                                                                                        p.CTO5Sey@newsletter.co.uk
               LSTERiife in the 1960s,
               religious fundamentalism and                                                                                                     MIDDLETOWN, a new Northern Irish film that is
               a family tearing itself apart.                                                                                                   effectively a showcase for local talent, makes
               Perhaps unlikely subjects for a                                                                                                  uncomfortable viewing at times.
               feature film which has been                                                                                                      Not necessarily in a bad way, it is a compelling
               called the best Irish movie,                                                                                                     drama with plenty of deft touches, but this is an
northern or southern, to be made in
             IT                                                                                                                                 un flinching look at oar society.
recent years.                                                                                                                                   Set hi the 1960s, it doesn't use the Troubles as a
But Middletown is an insightful, and now                                                                                                        narrative device, moreover it shows mindsets and
critically-acclaimed, look at the Northern                                                                                                      the seething sense of anger and alienation that
Irish condition with touches of gothic                                                                                                          would lead to conflict.
horror and melodrama.                                                                                                                           But this is a chilling drama about violence and
Written by Daragh Carville and directed                                                                                                         religion, and how both can destroy lives.
by Brian Kirk, both from Armagh, it                                                                                                             The film begins with Gabriel Hunter as a young
features Pride and Prejudice star and                                                                                                           boy being told that he is to be sent to the seminary.
MatthewMacfadyeninthe title role along                                                                                                          The scene, deliberately, has the feel of a
with a cast of notable actors.                                                                                                                  courtroom sentencing.
The plot centres around the Hunter                                                                                                              Outside, his younger brother Jim gets into a fight.
family, and the dank, dreary backdrop of                                                                                                        Years later, having trained as a minister and
Middletown.                                                                                                                                     returned to his home town, Gabriel (Matthew
 Gabriel (Matthew Macfadyen) is told at                                                                                                         Macfadyen i is determined to restore order in the
 an early age that he has been "chosen by                                                                                                       midst of what he sees as sin.
 God" and is sent off to train as a minister.                                                                                                   With gambling and drinking rife, Gabriel goes
He returns home to Middletown many                                                                                                              about trying to bring Middletown back to God, a
years later tofindthat drinking and                                                                                                             quest that puts him on a collision course with his
gambling are rife, and that his brother,                                                                                                        own family. Jim (Daniel Mays) is now married to
Jim, is haplessly caught up in the                                                                                                              pub landlady Caroline (EvaBirthistle) and they
shenanigans.                                                                                                                                    are expecting a child.
Jim (Daniel Mays) is married to Caroline         TEAM: writer Daragh Carville, director Brian Kirk and producer Michael Casey                   He work in the failing family business with the
 (Eva Birthistle), who works in the local                                                                                                       head of the family, Bill Hunter (Gerard
bar and rejects Gabriel's attempts to                                                                                                           McSorley).
bring the pair back to religion.                 BY PHIL CROSSEY                                 fanatical faith that blinds one to the
The penniless couple are expecting their                                                         actual complexity of human experience,"        With the bar opening on Sundays, and the
first child, struggling to build their own                       p. crossey@-neiDsletter.co.uk   he said.                                       business selling illegal diesel, Gabriel's mission to
home and trying to survive in a world were                                                                                                      clean up the town begins with those closest to
                                                                                                 "I certainly didnt want to make a point        him.
money, ratherthan spiritual guidance, is         "It was an exciting challenge to capture        about Northern Irish Protestantism; it's a
what they need.                                                                                                                                 All of this happens against a permanently cold,
Meanwhile, Jim and Gabriel's father Bill         the character, and the journey he goes on,      bigger story than that.                        damp backdrop and the muddy streets of the
 (Gerald McSqrley) is attempting to run          without becoming hysterical," he said.          "It could be Protestant, it could be           town itself provide such a tactile and effective
 the family's failing business while he          "It's much more interesting trying to keep Catholic, it could be Islamic or whatever.          background that Middletown itself is almost the
battles with ill health and an impending         the lid on than lettingit all come out."        It's about any kind of fanaticism, any kind    film's main character.
 sense of his mortality.                         While his great grandfather was a               of ideology that is life-denying."             Middletown is a very literal work, which is loaded
 Middletown is about the new minister's          prominent member of the Welsh church,           But Middletown is unmistakably                 with imagery. It follows in the tradition of great
 battle with sin and how he must face his        there were no immediate family reference        Northern Irish, in setting and in content.     dramas where lack of communication and
 own family on the front line.                   points for Matthew to draw on.                                                                  empathy create the tension.
 "It felt like a western," Matthew               Onscreen, Gabriel may be dark and               Shot on location over Sve weeks last year      Everyone from Northern Ireland will recognise
 Macfadyen said.                                 foreboding, but Matthew said there was          in Glaslough and in the Ulster Folk and        the setting and the characters, who are willing to
 As the stoic main character, one who            good in him.                                    Transport Museum, the fictional                 criticise then- neighbour before they see their own
 keeps his emotions to himself, Gabriel          "I found him quite sympathetic, he's an         Middletown has a real presence on screen.      faults.
 Hunter not an usual role for the star.          innocent a baby really: he has no social        "The two key themes are religion and           The characters look for salvation hi all the wrong
 But the idea of a minister from Northern        skills, he doesn't know how to cope with        violence and the connection between            places and the lack of forgiveness leads to an
 Ireland, one so out of touch with the real      his brother's wife or his father, but he        them," Daragh said.                            explosive conclusion.
 world, was something he approached with         adores his family," he said.                                                                   On the face of it, this neo-western-cum-family
 gusto.                                          "Coming back to take over the ministry in       "Those are inescapable ideas when you          drama is an examination of the effect of religion
 "I didn't have any preconceived ideas, and      the town was a huge thing for him, it was       grow up in Northern Ireland. They're part      on people's lives.
 I didn't know about the Free Presbyterian       what he was put on this earth to do, but he of what shapes you."                               But there are also strong overtones of how
 thing," Matthew said.                           realises that his dad and his brother are       Thefilmwarns against taking a simplistic,      fundamentalism, and the lack of empathy it
 He relished playing a fundamental               the most evil men in the village. That's a      dogmatic, view to complex human                brings, can be an incredibly destructive force.
 preacher and, with the perfect accent, he       reflection on him and he can't deal with        problems.                                      While the story deals with Protestantism, and
 has struck a chord with Ulster audiences.       it."                                            H
                                                                                                   It's a controversial message," Daragh        Middletown is very close to the Gaelic name for
 "People were saying I sounded just like         Gabriel's mission to clean up the town                                                         Ballymena, there is enough ambiguity not to
 Ian Paisley but I didn't know, I didn't base    begins with his own family, and he turns to said.                                              identify any single faith and the message is
 it on him."                                     the Bible for guidance, setting his             "I'm not saying Christianity is wrong but it   universal.
 Getting the accent right was challenging        unshakeable moral compass from his              is a cautionary tale about how a black-        This is a lavish film that is beautifully shot and
 for Matthew, and he worked hard on an           inbuilt, and unworldly, sense of right and      and-while ideological world view can be        bubbles with simmering tension all the way
 idiosyncratic Northern Ireland tone.            wrong.                                          dangerous.                                     through. The plot may jar at times, and lurch
 "It's different from a Belfast accent, that     "There's no debate, no black and white;         "I'm not religious, I was brought up a         toward unbelievably at the end, but this is a
 Ballymena/Ulster-Scotstwang,"hesaid.            you'll either be saved or you'll burn in hell." Catholic but I'm not practising, but that      parable as much as a narrative story.
 "It was driving me insane at the start, and     he said.                                        doesn't mean I'm anti-religion, the likes of   The performances are outstanding from a
 there was a point where I thought this is       "It's a fundamental belief. It's deranged,      Martin Luther King and Gandhi have             recognisable cast, who capture perfectly the
 going to be a disaster', but then it all        but it's a great security for many people."      done great things in the name of religion.    traits of hiding behind themselves, or behind a
 clicked."                                       For writer Daragh Carville, despite the                                                        twisted set of values.
 With his voice sorted, Matthew focused on       obvious signs, thefilmisn't just about any "It would be lazy to simply say all religion        It is by no means an easy work, but it sums up the
 portraying Gabriel in a way that didn't         individual religion: "I don't think it's         is bad."                                      Northern Ireland condition better than any big
 descend into the stereotypical cinematic        necessarily about Christianity as such. I        Middletown opens in cinemas across            screen effort and for that it deserves to be seen.
 preacher.                                       think it's about fundamentalism - a              Northern Ireland today.                       Rating:
www.ireland.corn/theticket                                      Friday, October 20,2006




    MITCHELL AND WEBB: 4 • PUMP DOWN THE VOLUME: 5 • THIS WEEK'S MOVIES: 7-9
2 COVER STORY                                                                                                                                    THE IRISH TIMES. FRIDAY. OCTOBER 20.2006




                                                                   IT'S GRIM
There's a touch of the gothic about
     Middletown, which follows the
        disturbing machinations of a
     demented minister in Northern
       Ireland as he turns against his
      family. Director Brian Kirk tells
  Donald Clarke what drove him to
this robust take on fundamentalism

                               JDDLETOWN, an excel-




   M
                               lent new Gothic drama
                               detailing grim occurrenc-
                               es in the border counties,
                               has one - and possibly
                               only one - thing in com-
                               mon with the upcoming
                               Borat film. Had a gentile
                               created Sacha Baron Co-
                               hen's satire, in which a                                                                                                  The Night of the Hunter about Kirk's
              fiercely anti-Semitic Kazakhstan! jour-                                                                                                    picture. But the original inspiration
              nalist bumbles around the United                                                                                                           came from a more surprising source.
              States, then it might very well have                                                                                                          "The sources of the gestation were
              been subject to protests from the Anti-
                                                                                                           Those old-time preachers                      far away from here," Kirk says. "It
              Defamation League.                                                                           HARRY POWELL IN THE NIGHT OF                  evolved in an organic way. Long be-
                 Similarly, had Middletown been di-                                                        THE HUNTER (1955)                             fore Walk the Line reintroduced the
              rected by some lazy southerner, the                                                          Sexually repressed homicidal maniac           world to Johnny Cash, Carville, who is
              Protestant people of Northern Ireland,                                                       who marries then bumps off the                a great country music fan, was playing
              no strangers to taking offence, might                                                        perennially doomed Shelley Winters            those songs to me and talking about
              have reached for their own placards.                                                         while seeking a fortune stolen by her         the great gothic drama within them.
              Brian Kirk's film, which follows a de-                                                       late husband. Robert Mitchum (left) -         We suddenly thought we should make
              mented minister as he attempts to               depicting the Catholic Church as a ha-       one hand tattooed with the word               a film that touched on those themes.
              purge his village of sin, will do little to     ven for sadistic nut jobs".                  "love", the other with "hate" - seems to      They are lurid. They are entertaining.
              dismantle the common perception of                Kirk casts his eyes to heaven.             be having a whale of a time.                  They are dramatic. And religion is at
              the Ulster Protestant as an austere, hu-          "Oh, yeah, I know," he says. "And it                                                     the heart of them. At the same time we
              mourless fellow with little time for            specifically says he is a minister. That     ELMER GANTRY IN ELMER GANTRY                  were brooding on the subject of funda-
              japes or jollity. Transylvanian villag-         was annoying."                               {I960}                                        mentalism and those two things just
              ers, rendered daughterless by local               So why did Kirk and his screenwrit-        In 1960 Sinclair Lewis's tale of a            came together."
              vampires, have traditionally been               er, the acclaimed playwright Daragh          lascivious, revivalist charlatan touring         The result - for this writer the best
              more inclined towards beer and skit-            Carville, decide to avoid any specific       the Bible belt in the 1920s was viewed        Irish film since Adam & Paul - focuses
              tles than the inhabitants of this som-          mention       of the         characters'     largely as a period piece. Four decades       on an unhappy reunion between two
              bre, fictional locale.                          denomination? Somebody named                 later we look at Butt Lancaster's fiery       siblings in the early 1960s. Macfady-
                 Brian Kirk from Armagh? Brian?               Weissberg could, perhaps, be forgiven        performance and think inevitably of Jim       en's Gabriel Hunter has, throughout
              Kirk? Hmm? I suppose he has the right           for not quite understanding the signifi-     Bakker, Oral Roberts and ail the other        his life, been expected to succeed,
              to depict my people thus.                       cance of the term "minister".                regretful sinners who followed.               while his brother Jim (Daniel Mays)
                 "We are in a time where Islamic fun-           "Well my interest is in the family                                                       has always been regarded as some-
              damentalism is the subject on every-            and how that is torn apart. I wanted it      HAZa MOTES IN W7SE BLOOD (1979)               thing of a loser. When Gabriel returns
              one's lips," Kirk says. "And, of course,        to be accurate, but I didn't want to get     John Huston's disturbing film follows a       from missionary work to take up his
              fundamentalism is embedded in my                into making a film that was a critique       young man as he returns from the army         home parish, he finds Jim married to
              own culture. I remember being in Lon-           of any particular religion. I wanted to      to embark on a life of quasi-deranged         the daughter (Eva Birthtstle), now
              don when the tube bombs went off.               show the negative impact that faith          evangelism. Though Brad Dourif s              pregnant, of the town's publican.
              And there was talk about the foreign-           can have on a family. Here is a guy,         centra! performance is excellent,                 Gabriel fumes. The citizens, comical-
               ness of it all. But I grew up with all this.   who, as a child, is told you have a desti-   Houston, appearing briefly in flashback,       ly dissolute at first, are gradually
              I had the desire to demonstrate that            ny to fulfil and, if you don't fulfil it,    almost steals the show as the lad's            swayed by the preacher's sinewy rheto-
               fundamentalists are not necessarily            you are a moral and existential failure.     fire-and- brimstone grandfather.              ric and begin to turn away from booze
              monsters. They are not a different spe-         How do you live with this?"                                                                and cockfights. But madness awaits.
              cies to the rest of us."                           All the talk of oppressive religion        SONNY DEWEY IN THE APOSTLE                       "The idea is that Gabriel has only
                 Yet, though Middletown trades in an          and rural misery may give the reader          (1997)                                        been exposed to things that justify his
               unmistakably non-conformist school of          the false (and terrifying) impression         After fleeing the scene of a violent          outlook to date and then he comes
               extremism, no mention is made of any           that Middletown harks back to the             crime, a troubled man starts a new life       back and things are not black and
               specific religious denomination. No-           dreary agrarian realism that plagued          as a Pentecostal preacher. Dewey,             white; they are grey. He is a virgin. He
              body on this island, watching Matthew           Irish television and cinema throughout        played with characteristic solidity by        can't cope with the fact that his broth-
               Macfadyen's clenched performance in            the 1980s. The film is, in fact, a darkly     Robert Duvall, who also directs, bears        er's wife is pregnant. He suddenly
               the central role, could be in any doubt        humorous melodrama, whose depic-              certain similarities to mean old Elmer        feels that the only way he can be true
               as to which "community" the characters         tion of the destructive power of faith        Gantry. But this is a more humane             to God is to cast out his family."
               belong to, but some Americans have             and accumulating sense of doom call to        character with genuine faith.                    Macfadyen, recently Mr Darcy in
               been confused. Jay Weissberg, review-          mind such classic British horror films                                                      Pride and Prejudice, has a softness to
               ing the film in Variety, declared it "an-      as The Wicker Man and Witch/inder                                                           his personality that allows one to iden-
               other addition to the growing list of pics      General. There is also something of                                                        tify just a little with Gabriel "Yes. Mat-
irae   TOE WSH T1MB. TODAY. OCTCWR 20. 2006                                                                                                    COVER STORY 3




                                     P NORTH


              thew has real integrity as a person. I
              wanted the audience to see him as a vic-
              tim as well as an aggressor," says Kirk.
                 Brian Kirk, trim in regulation film-
              maker black, exudes a staggering de-
              gree of confidence. Prompted to dis-
              cuss the film's reception in America or
              his recent successes directing for tele-
              vision, he will launch himself into an
              evangelical monologue of some five
              minutes duration. Fair enough. He has
              come quite some way in his 38 years.
                 Directing films must, for a working-
              class kid in Armagh during the 1970s
              and 1980s, have seemed as realistic an
              ambition as becoming an astronaut or
              getting elected President of the World.
                 "I remember coming back from col-
              lege and telling my dad I wanted to
              make films and he said: 'Who do you
              think you are?"1 he laughs. "And this
              was a man who really loved cinema."           No middle ground: (top left) Brian Kirk and Mick Laity on the set of Middletown. Above and far left: Matthew Macfadyen as
              Seamus McGarvey, currently one of             Gabriel Hunter and Eva Birthistle (above centre)
              the world's most admired cinematogra-
              phers, was born in Armagh a year be-
              fore Kirk and his success helped per-
              suade the younger man that a career in        to the tube station and the phone went        Which brings us neatly back to the         doon, The Hotel Overlook and Man-
              film-making might indeed be an                and they said: 'We have a job for you,'"    unremittingly morose depiction of ru-        derlay. It bears the same dysfunctional
              achievable aspiration.                        he says, still sounding slightly bewil-     ral Northern Ireland in Middletown.          relationship with Ulster as the dark
                 "My father was a social worker and         dered. The job in question was Brother-     Daragh Carville, author of fine plays        fairy-tale environment of The Night of
              my mother was a nurse," Kirk ex-              hood, a major series for the Showtime       such as Observatory and language J?ou-       the Hunter does with the American
              plains. "We came from a place called          network focusing on Irish-American          lette, was, like his director, born in Ar-   south.
               Drumbreda in Armagh City, which              mobsters in Rhode Island.                   magh. There is a town named Middle-             "Well there were two things I was
              was quite a rough housing estate. I was          '"Don't I have to meet somebody or       town in that county. So, though the lo-      worried about when screening it in
              always totally into movies. When Sea-         talk to somebody?' I said. Apparently       cation of the drama is never pinned          America," Kirk muses. "I was asking
               mus started to get out and about and         not. "They really like your stuff, so       down, it is not unreasonable to assume       myself will this play as an Irish film or
              do things I thought: well there are no        come on over.' It was as simple as that.    we are in Ireland's orchard.                 an international film? And secondly
              excuses. It is possible. You can't say        Now working on that sort of show               "There is a Middletown every-             will they see it as a period film or a con-
              people like me don't make films. A guy        does really test your stamina. Because      where," he says. "We Googled it and it       temporary film? People in New York
               from up the road is doing it."               they will just pay overtime if they have    transpires there are 240 or so of them       were, in fact, arguing about that in the
                 Brian studied English literature at        to, you can find yourself working           out there. So it is just a coincidence       audience. And that's great. Some said:
              the University of Edinburgh, before go-       18-hour days. That really does test         that there is one in Armagh. It was just     this is what's happening in the south
               ing on to take a course in film at Bristol   your stamina when you are standing in       meant to be a town somewhere in the          now? Somebody else said: this is
              University. After winning best screen-        freezing water outside Providence for       Ulster bible belt. What was more im-         what's happening here - in Tribeca."
              play at the Fuji Film Awards, he made         five hours. That was useful for Middle-     portant was to get the look of some-            Kirk smiles as he ventures into a
              a series of shorts, one of which. Here's      town."                                      where as it would be in the early Six-       new anecdote.
              Johnny, was nominated for a Scottish             I imagine he had a warmer, better-       ties. And somewhere like that, because          "But what's funny is that the biggest
              Bafta. A later vignette, 2001's Do            appointed caravan on the Brotherhood        they don't have much money, a lot of         gasp in the film happened when Gabri-
              Armed Bobbers Have Love Affairs?,             shoot. Low-budget productions such          things will be hanging around since          el throws this wad of money in the fire.
               written by Ronan Bennett, brought            as Middletown do not often provide          the 1950s and the 1940s."                    That got a bigger gasp than the mur-
              him to the attention of the prestigious       luxurious accommodation.                       And, yes, though a domestic audi-         der." Throwing money on the fire?
              CAA agency in Hollywood.                         "Yes, and some days the set was so       ence will recognise the world of Mid-        Now there's an outrage that might real-
                 "Somebody at CAA saw it and they           cold there that the paint wouldn't dry      dletown as poundingly Northern Irish,        ly inspire the Ulster Protestant com-
              brought me over and talked to me and          properly. You have no idea how cold it      the fictional town's proper location is      munity to brandish their placards.
               then a few weeks later I was walking in-     was."                                       in the same movie universe as Briga-         Middletown is released on November 3
    _


ville), is fiercely protective of her
middle-aged son, Ronnie (Jackie           sionately expressed in the relation- ture or treated with conde;
Earle Haley), a paroled sex offend-       ship that forms between Sarah and sion, and Field and Perrotta,
er whose return home sparks ten-          Brad after their first, playful kiss. collaborated on the screenpla
sions in the community and harass-           Field skilfully intersects all vest them with artfully nua
ment from an embittered ex-cop            these characters as he explores shadings of complexity
(Noah Emmerich).                          them, and their parallel paths grad- prompt several surprises.
  Ronnie is not the only cuckoo in        ually - and inevitably - converge.      Even the introduction of th<
this nest; the other is desire, pas-      None of them is reduced to carica- screen narrator - a device tha


                                                   ty. We get the measure of him when he
GIMME THAT                                         finds a mouse in a trap and grinds his shoe
                                                   into the animal's body. In a creepily omi-         GA
                                                   nous scene, Gabriel meets his brother's
OLD TIME                                           pregnant wife (Eva Birthistle) and feels her
                                                   stomach, letting his hand linger there.            ALL
                                                      The minister's congregation has no idea
RELIGION                                           of quite how serious he is when, in his first
                                                   sermon, he says, "I'm going to be hard on
                                                                                                      ROMANZO C
                                                                                                      Directed by li
                                                   you, and hard on myself." Spouting fire and        Stuart, Anna I
MIDDLETOWN ****                                    brimstone, Gabriel is the personification of       Claudio Santa
Directed by Brian Kirk. Starring Matthew           fundamentalism, and through him the inci-          Trinca 16 certj
Macfadyen, Daniel Mays, Eva Birthistle, Gerard     sive screenplay by Darragh Carville implic-
McSorley, Mick Lally, Bronagh Gallagher, Marie     itly anticipates the intolerance that will boil    SET against
Jones ISA cert, lim release, .89 min               over in this part of Ireland in years to come.     ly between:
                                                      The scariest aspect of Gabriel is that he       vigorous ga
BRIAN Kirk's striking first feature film           absolutely believes that everything he does        Marco Tull
presents an unprepossessing picture of life        is right, that it is part of his divine mission    The Best of
in a small Northern Ireland town at an un-         on earth, and in that respect the film taps in-    nale doesn't
specified tune, although the period trap-          to the universality of conflicts rooted in reli-   bition of thi
pings suggest the late 1950s or early 1960s.       gious zealotry. Director Kirk applies an ap-       resting cine:
Gerard McSorley plays Bill Hunter, who             propriate, darkly muted colour scheme to           hibits a firm
runs the local garage with his younger son,        this grimly bleak environment, establishing        and visual st
Jim (Daniel Mays). Daily life seems mun-           an eerie, pressure-cooker atmosphere that          ances from I
dane there until the return of Jim's clergy-       recalls Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.                   A prologu
man brother, Gabriel (Matthew Macfady-                Last seen as Mr Darcy in Pride & Preju-         nists as teen
en), from missionary work in Africa to take        dice, Macfadyen immerses himself in the            knock dowc
over the parish that is his hometown.              role of Gabriel with a chilling conviction.        driving thro
   A prologue of juvenile malevolence set 15       The uniformly fine performances notably            from prison
years earlier establishes the violent under-       include Birthistle's feisty portrayal of the       experienced
currents that will surface so devastatingly        only person with the temerity to stand up to          Ice (Kim 1
when Gabriel takes it on himself to rid the        his character in this calculatedly unsettling      his nicknami
town of what he regards as vice and depravi-       psychodrama. Michael Dwyer                         semblance o
                                                                                      mber 5 2006 49




                   ROMANZO CRIMINALS CERT:
                   THREE childhood friends run amok in Rome throughout the
                   70s and '80s in this melodramatic crime flick.
                     The gangsters take over the seedy underbelly of the Italian
                   capital through drugs and prostitution.
                     With the help of corrupt politicians, who are in fact using
                   them as pawns, they all become corrupted by the world they
                   have created. The plot and action are both good, even if it
                   seems like a soap opera at times.
                     The two female leads are beautiful but their characters seem
                   a little under-developed — one is a prostitute while the other
                   Is a saint. There's also plenty of religious imagery to create a
                   connection between these ladies and the Madonna.


                                          RED ROAD CERT: 18
                                          SCOTTISH drama centred around a woman (Kate Dickie) who
                                          works as a CCTV operator.
                                            When Jackie (left) spots a man (Tony Curran) she thought
                                          she'd never see on her cameras again, her whole world is
                                          turned upside down and she quickly becomes obsessed with
                                          his every move.
                                            Director Andrea Arnold cleverly pieces together a sad
                                          mystery that is revealed through some sickening events.
                                            The acting is superb and although the pace Is slow in the
                                          beginning, the long build-up is well worth it once the dis-
                                          turbing motives are revealed.
                                            A bizarre but brilliantly and sensitively-made romp.


                   MIDDLETOWN CERT: ISA
                   RELIGION rips apart a small town and destroys a family in
                   this powerful drama set in Northern Ireland.
                     An overzealous young priest (Matthew MacFadyen) returns
                   to his home town but faces bitter opposition from his broth-
                   er (Gerard McSorley) and his wife (Eva Birthistle) when he
                   attempts to "save" his flock.
                     Director Brian Kirk brilliantly shows how strong convic-
                   tions can have horrific consequences.
                     Brilliant performances all round and watch out for Glenroe
                   legend Mick tally as an elderly priest.
                     A tight script and plot, along with good camera work
                   ensure an interesting and gripping watch.


                                          A GOOD YEAR CERT: 12A                              <S* «*




the children
                                          GLADIATOR star Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott
                                          team up once again for this slow-burning rom-com.
                                            Crowe seems out of place doing the tough-talker turned
                                          sensitive soul.
                                            After inheriting his uncle's vineyard in France, Max Is
                                          forced to re-evaluate his life. Along the way he meets his
                                          long-lost cousin and a gorgeous woman, who for the first
                                          time make him want to change.
I complex vehi-                             The stereotypes come thick and fast in this movie which is
ler beautifully                           based on a Peter Mayle book.
urs.                                        And this romp should be handled like wine tasters test new
ose to fame as a                          wine — swished around and spat out.
.1—_„ ..,u:.: —

				
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