Dark side of the Celtic Tiger exposed by Boorman

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The Independent Online

A lacerating look at life in modern Ireland has been provided by the distinguished film-maker John Boorman, whose latest movie has been described as "dark, doom-laden and relentlessly dystopian".

The just-released film, A Tiger's Tail, has taken some aback by its apparently pitiless depiction of the less desirable aspects of life in an Irish Republic made prosperous by the economic boom known as the "Celtic Tiger". Boorman, an Englishman in his seventies who has lived near Dublin for more than 30 years, has declared: "I'm getting at the dark underbelly of Ireland." While the Celtic Tiger has transformed a traditionally poor country within a couple of decades, it has also created many problems.

In a commentary on the film, Boorman sets out a list of Ireland's virtues in contrast with what might be called its boorish aspects: "The conviviality of the pub, and binge-drinking. The welcoming smile to the stranger, and the rabid xenophobia. The affection for children, and their sexual abuse. Poets and scholars, and the highest illiteracy rate in Europe. The new prosperity, and the vulgar flaunting of wealth. Longer life expectancy, and young men taking their lives. National neutrality, and the raging gun and drug wars. Stunning landscapes, and the plague of ugly bungalows."

The film stars Brendan Gleeson and Kim Cattrall, with Gleeson playing a rich and unscrupulous property developer confronted by visions of his penniless brother. The brother embarks on a vengeful pursuit.

It features corrupt politicians, drunken teenagers, a health service at breaking point and widespread homelessness.

The Dublin authorities have been generally grateful for Boorman's work, but this latest production is unlikely to be welcomed by the local tourist industry.

The tone is, however, by no means out of character for Boorman, whose career has been marked by a willingness to take on difficult themes. His movies include Point Blank and Deliverance.

Not all have been commercial successes, but his willingness to make movies outside of the Hollywood studio system he despises has helped build a reputation for independence and individuality.

One of his previous Irish works was The General, which starred Gleeson as Martin Cahill, the Dublin gangster who carried out audacious robberies but died at the hands of the IRA. That, too, concentrated on the seamier side of Dublin.

Boorman has lived happily in Ireland since the early 1970s in the fashionable Wicklow Hills, near Dublin. Locals say he lives comfortably but has no conspicuous showbiz habits and is a keen gardener.

However, he clearly disapproves of many of the changes in Ireland. A Tiger's Tail is an echo of a sentiment he expressed in a 1991 diary when he wrote: "I feel like Merlin, an old wizard who finds himself living in a materialistic world where there is no place for magic."

He reserves particular venom for the Irish property developers who have so altered the landscape.

"These guys are the new emperors - they bestride the universe and leave their huge carbon footprints all over the place," he said. "They feel they're beyond the law, and the hubris of these men is extraordinary. It's particularly visible in Ireland because of the contrast with the Ireland that went before."

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