Given Rocky Road to Dublin‘s allegiance to the aesthetic of the French New Wave, it was fitting that Peter Lennon’s famous documentary was the last film to screen at Cannes in 1968 before the festival was halted in solidarity with the events of May ‘68. Since then, the film, whose title derives from a 19th-century Irish song about a man who travels to England from Tuam, has remained virtually unseen, banned for many years in Ireland. First Run/Icarus Films resurrects the film for a limited run at the Anthology Film Archives, allowing audiences a significant, unparalleled glimpse of life in Ireland in the ‘60s. The sardonic eloquence of the film may be a kindred spirit of the French New Wave but it also shares roots with the electric humanism of Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon’s films, which similarly evinced the capacity of art to document life. But whereas Mitchell and Kenyon illuminated the spirit of England’s middle class during the turn of the 20th century, a more pessimistic Lennon focuses entirely on the social stasis of Ireland’s people, who were forcibly being gripped by “masculine pejoratives” and hypocrisies of their church and government, like the censorship boards that outlawed the playing of foreign games. The film blends interviews with writers, artists (including director John Huston), priests, and everyday people with footage of landscape, sporting events, people dancing and singing the night away in pubs, and children chatting away in classrooms, arguing lucidly and surreptitiously for the extinction of a country’s outmoded sate of affairs.
- First Run/Icacus Films
- 69 min
- Peter Lennon
- Sean O'Faoláin, Conor Cruise O'Brien, John Huston, Douglas Gageby, Jim Fitzgerald, Father Michael Cleary, Liam O'Briain, Phyllis Hamilton
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