THE EYE WIDE ANGLE

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Held over since May, Nothing Personal was released this week, only a month before Hollywood's $30m biopic of IRA leader Michael Collins finally hits the screens. The two films, which illustrate very different political and stylistic approaches to the Irish Question, have both scooped prizes at the Venice Film Festival and both been long delayed for fear of sparking further Troubles.

Set in the ceasefire of 1975, Nothing Personal was adapted from the novel All Our Fault during the recent peace process. Unusually, it views the troubles from the perspective of Loyalist paramilitaries. Although flawed, it's a credible piece of film-making, not too far removed from the bloody situation it describes.

Michael Collins is something else altogether, a glossy American-Irish product that smacks of radical chic and the patriot games of Tinseltown. In the course of a spectacularly long gestation, the film has attracted the interest of everyone from Bill Clinton to Michael Cimino, Kevin Costner to Jean Kennedy Smith, the American ambassador to Ireland who managed to secure herself a cameo.

Eventually, it was agreed that Irish film-maker Stephen Rea would direct Liam Neeson as "the Big Fella" with Julia Roberts co-starring as his lover Kitty Kieran. Cast and crew set about the serious business of representing history and learning accents (after the unintelligible "brogue" of Mary Reilly, Roberts had plenty of work to do). But when Warner saw the rushes, they weren't worried by historical accuracy, political correctness or even the Loyalist pickets gathering in Ulster. What they demanded was more wham-bam drama and more love-action from Ms Roberts.

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