by Emanuele "Cipo" Rozzoni

 

 

JIM SHERIDAN'S DEBUT: ”MY LEFT FOOT”

 

 

 

JIM SHERIDANOne of the most important Irish film-makers nowadays is Jim Sheridan. Born in Dublin, 1949, Sheridan has become since the 1970s one of the most outstanding promoters of Project Theatre, an avant-guard theatre in Dublin. In 1981 he leaves Ireland with his family for New York, where he takes up the artistic direction of the Irish Arts Centre. He gets the chance to work as a scriptwriter, director and drama actor before getting into cinema by the end of the 1980s.

For his debut in full-length films Sheridan chooses a story that takes him back to his homeland. My Left Foot (1989) is about the life of the Irishman Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis) and how he succeeds, though being a paraplegic from his birth, in becoming a well-known painter and writer: thanks to his left foot, indeed, as well as his mother’s love (Brenda Fricker) and his overcrowded and very poor family.

DANIEL DAY-LEWISWe needn’t point it out: it’s a typical “true story” of fall and rise, a most cherished trail by Hollywood (not by chance both Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker got an Oscar Award for best interpretation). Anyway, the film is successful whereas a lot of films of this kind usually fail: flirting with pathos without yielding to it. To save it from the sentimentalist mess there is a good amount of irony and a fable tone, that make it, rather than a truth-film, a moral apologue of a group force (a family community) more than a single person. Thus, Sheridan also offers us the portrait of daily life, not thoughtless but never helpless, of an Irish working class family of mid 20th century. MY LEFT FOOT, Ireland, 1989Whereas in the story the director aims at the moral fable, in the portrait he aims at the realism of the details: humble and narrow interiors, overcrowded beds, oats soup meals and then the pub, pints over pints, and football matches in the neighbourhood streets, the coal steal for the winter.

In more general terms one thing is sure: Sheridan doesn’t shoot the wide green spaces of Ireland, a country idyll, so much depicted by Hollywood. On the contrary, in this film nature is purposefully quite absent. The quite exclusive setting is the Browns’ house in the small working class neighbourhood—indeed, a very remarkable choice, openly controversial as it’s meant to show the less folkloristic and known side of Ireland.

Finally it’s interesting to note that the film has been co-produced by RTČ (Radio Telefės Čireann) Ardmore. These Studios, the first ones in Ireland, are near Bray, a small town by the sea south of Dublin. Started in 1958 and still active, between ups and downs, the Ardmore Studios have hosted several international productions over the years, yet failing its primary objective: to boost the development of a home film industry. Among the most successful films shot at the Studios we recall Days of Thunder and Bravehart.

 

 

N°0 - WHAT THE HELL IS POITIN?

 

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