Movies and Film: England's Left Foot: Irish Cinema

England's Left Foot: Irish Cinema

Like the larger relationship between England and its island neighbor to the west, the dynamic between English and Irish film has always been fraught with political and social turmoil. During particularly violent periods of conflict proindependence films were banned outright, often by force, and cinema played an important ideological role in struggles between separatists and loyalists throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Despite the continuing conflict, Ireland has experienced something of a cinematic renaissance during the past 10 years. Dublin-born Jim Sheridan has made a number of consistently great yet highly contrasting films that provide intelligent meditations on the country's various political and cultural milieus. My Left Foot (1989) featured the Academy Award-winning performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as the paralyzed artist Christy Brown; though Sheridan's first film, it earned him an Oscar nomination for directing. The Field (1990) is the diametrical opposite of My Left Foot: an agonizingly slow but utterly gripping story of rural poverty and endurance that uses its pacing and camerawork to mimic an old man's laborious life clearing a field of rocks. In the Name of the Father (1993) represented yet another change of pace, dealing head-on with "the Troubles" by telling the real-life story of an Irish man wrongly imprisoned for an IRA terrorist attack.

Forest Whitaker as an English soldier with a secret in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game (1992).

Forest Whitaker as an English soldier with a secret in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game (1992).

Neil Jordan is another prominent Irish director whose work has reached audiences across the Atlantic. Mona Lisa (1986) was a well-received tale of prostitution in the dark streets and back alleys of London, while The Crying Game (1992) garnered six Oscar nominations and became notorious for the famous "secret" revealed near the denouement.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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