Compound of one-man show and community enterprise
No other film festival is quite like Cork's. Its beginnings in 1956 seemed very humble. Today, the 19th Cork Film International, as they call it, has grown up into an event compound of a one-man show and a genuine community enterprise, without losing any of the "friendliness for which Cork is famous."
The one man, of course, is Dermot Breen, the genial and authoritative Festival director. With inexhaustible sense and sensibility, Breen has battled to maintain and improve Cork's international standing in the film world.
For some years Cork was restrained from competing in the international arena for feature films and remained primarily a festival for shorts. Today Cork is again entitled to make "technical" awards to feature films for music, sound, photography, colour, but not for acting or direction. Meanwhile Breen himself has become the Irish film censor, thus smoothing out some of the prickliest controversies besetting films in Ireland.
The 19th Cork Film International from which I have just returned, could compete with any festival. The stars were there — Trevor Howard, Carroll Baker, Donal McCann, Rory Gallagher, Ingrid Pitt and others.
Sideshows ranged from a trip to Kinsale for a wine-tasting to, more seriously, the "education course" which has started under the auspices of David Hemmings, and where over 200 youngsters have enrolled to hear the stars and directors like John Boorman and Norman Cohen and Wolf Mankowitz lecture.
Cork was able to offer a thoroughly respectable and representative selection of feature films even in this lean year when there are really not enough first-rate feature films to go round. Two obvious Hollywood attractions had been mustered for the opening and closing nights.
I didn't really care for Breezy, the supposed comedy about the love of a young hitch-hiker (Kay Lenz) for a decidedly middleaged married man (William Holden); but to my surprise many of my colleagues did. The closing attraction was Conrack, the new John Voight vehicle directed by Martin Ritt after his great success with another antiracist movie. "Sounder".
Both these pictures will soon be in London when I shall hope to review them. So will Blazing Waddles, the uproarious burlesque Western which was shown in Cork. It is often funny, but in spite of its allusiveness to the seminal Westerns, it is neither witty enough to be a real satire, nor consistently funny enough to be a worthy of the genre. Two other main attractions are beset byproblems which threaten still further to delay thei; showing in London. The Eye of the Storm is now the title given to the film version of Brian Moore's Catholics. The shorter television version has already been shown here and, as already reported, the film may not he shown in Britain until the shorter television version has been run twice (it has been once). Trevor Howard explained that the difference is only a question of ten minutes for the TV "commercials".
Seeing the film version 1 find the difference not so much in the length as in the depth and the breadth of the screen, and also in the enormously enriched experience of seeing this memorable movie among an allCatholic audience which reacts to every absurdity and shock, to all the wry objections of the Abbot's (Trevor Howard) that "the old heresy is the new orthodoxy."
There was an almost perceptible shudder in reaction to the young American priest's explanation that the Church of the future (post-Vatican IV!) no longer required the faithful to believe in the Real Presence, and to the monks' every agony of the arguments about conscience and obedience.
Of course the ending can satisfy nobody. Nor did the ending of Brian Moore's original novella. But the substance of the film must stir every Catholic and the performances of Trevor Howard and of Cyril Cusack are memorable indeed. This was seeing it as a member not only of a Catholic audience but of the unique Cork audience, whose alertness to every flicker of humour or sorrow contributes to the total participation of the whole population of Cork, not just the Festival sponsors but every citizen host which makes the Cork Film International a genuine community enterprise.
Rory Gallagher makes a most pertinent reference to the small city where nearly everybody knows everybody, where "if you want to see somebody you know where to find them — or if you don't, where not to see them (and that's nice too!)." A week's visit in Cork leaves one the same sense of almost providential hospitality.
The Eye of the Storm is of course attributed to Great Britain, but as it was made in County Cork there was a tendency to feel possessive about it as matter for local pride.
The other film which has already been held up for a year or two (by legal American wrangles, 1 understand) is the strictly Irish Philadelphia Here I Come starring Donal McCann and Siobhan McKenna.
It is an immensely poignant story of non-communication between father and son, directed with rare tact and sympathy by John Questid, who told me how closely he had worked on the adaptation with the playwright. Questid is an
English director of whom I expect to hear much more, who has had invaluable experience working with John Ford, Henry Hathaway and Anthony Harvey on "The Lion in Winter."
Another emphatic Irish triumph of the 19th Cork International was the celebration of Cork's own "Beetle", Rory Gallagher, in his Irish Tour '74. The Gallagher sound is no sound for me, but Rory himself is the most disarmingly, determinedly modest of pop — or should it he rock? — idols.
One more British entry, "Malachi's Cove" can boast of superb photography by Walter Lassally of Cornish cliffs and spray, a promising debut by Veronica Quilligan, and the presence of Donald Pleasence at his quirkiest in a curiously melodramatic tale.
The sad Scots story, My Ain. Folk, second of a trilogy on childhood in a mining village, made an impression on those who had not seen its predecessor.
From the European mainland came a beautifully frivolous French comedy, Salute to the Artist with a virtuoso performance by Mastroianni as the eternal actor, a joyous absurdity; and a rather old-fashioned but useful German comedy Jonathan, 0 Jonathan played with polish and a sense of fun by Heinz Ruhman.
Poland sent The Secret, a cynical comedy of a widow's discovery that her professor husband had a very busy private life with others. It is funny in a wry way, but goes on too long while she tramps up and down the addresses in his diary.
The United States was credited with W which inappropriately casts Twiggy, the model from "The Boy Friend," in a depressing haunting. The Soviet Union sent one of its most lumbering and naive cornedies, enlivened only by the joke of sending for the Party Secretary to consult on a marital dispute.
In spite of the comparatOely satisfactory selection of feature films, the shorts at Cork are still the festival's real riches. It is fitting that a major contribution to this sector should be made by Irish film-makers, chafing with impatience for a native film industry to give them scope.
There is ample evidence of their talent, from Paddy Carey's picture of the ocean, Waves, to Norman Cohen's rather depressing view of The Importance of being Dublin. or David Shaw Smith's of a deserted Village to Tom Hayes's Bodhran a colourful and high-speed celebration of song and dance with drums.
Without taking much thought, I could jot down a dozen of the shorts which made me wish, as often before, that there were better prospects than seems likely of getting these shorts into the programmes.
Here are a few: The latest Australian documentary of Sydney's opera-house, The Fifth Facade; Poland's Mistletoe; Czechoslovakia's The Antlers; Britain's The World of Jesse Allen. All would grace any programme (though I couldn't help wondering why anybody who can paint as excitingly as Jesse Allen should need to talk soTniheucfhu)n. funniest of the shorts I thought Dennis Abbey's Gollocks — There's Plenty of Room in New Zealand — the railing of a middle-aged suburban guerrilla against the jets; and the most attractive, Experimental, a display of man's efforts to take wing, from the first attempt to emulate Leonardo to Concorde.
companiment to the savage picture of Arctic travel, not exactly from the huskies' point of view, but with more emphasis than usual on the dogs and at least according them the dignity of a personal pronoun instead of the contemptuous answer.
Every good festival after Venice has its "retrospective" or "tribute" series. Cork's tribute to Truffaut came very aptly after Truffaut's mass awards for Day for Night and provided a welcome opportunity to recall his whole work, including my own favourite, Jules et Jim.
appropriate for stohneg ainc: