On Monday last week I went to the Pictures. I realise it was April Fool’s Day, but there was no fooling about it. I warned you about it beforehand.
In Ireland we never went to the movies. We never went to the cinema.
WE WENT TO THE PICTURES!
But, sure you all know it was the same thing.
Did I ever tell you about George? No. Not George, my son-in-law. This is another one. George, lived next door to us when I was very small. At that time, he was the only person I knew who spoke with an American accent. Now for a man whose feet never touched a foreign shore, that was some feat (pun intended). He worked for one of the film distributors, maybe all the films we saw in Ireland came from across the big pond. It was a long time ago, George died when I was eight. I am not quite sure what exactly he did at work. It might have been promoting the new movies, or delivering them round the cinemas. He might have been the man who rewound the films on the reels, but whatever he did, he talked like an American.
So back to last Monday. I was in Dublin for a special live viewing of See You at The Pictures, a feature length documentary about the history of Irish cinema going through the decades. It covered cinema entertainment history, through eight decades. Right from the early days of the talkies through to the latest effects-laden superhero epic.
Up until the arrival of Telefís Éireann – now RTÉ, on 31 December 1961, entertainment and social interaction was very limited. The cinema became a great outlet:
Caught in the middle of a cultural war, Irish men and women, boys and girls, flocked carefree to the cinema in search of entertainment or enlightenment, escape or glee, in some cases warmth from the cold outside, and, quite often, privacy, to be alone with one’s sweetheart in the dark away from prying eyes or prodding canes…
The film explores the vast national treasure chest of hitherto undocumented or privately documented stories and adventures that have been stored inside heads or scribbled in yellowing notebooks and diaries across the country.
Stories ranged from the humorously anecdotal or intimately personal to nation-forming issues such as the struggle between State, Church, and Nationalists for the hearts and minds of the Irish people.
Director, Jeremiah Cullinane had this to say:
While talking to the many, many people – potential witnesses, characters, interviewees – we have already met during the research for this project, I have noticed a particular phenomenon, It is how people, when asked about their experience at or with the cinema, suddenly and completely transform when a particular memory comes back to them. It’s no exaggeration to say that the person’s eyes light up all of a sudden, the voice changes, the body becomes excited, they really become a different person. A memory, but a particularly strong one, that has been dormant, all of a sudden sparks to life, and a whole flood of associations is released. The emotional impact of this person’s transformation is unmistakeable – anyone who observes it cannot fail to be moved by it somehow. This phenomenon is true, not only of older people, as one might expect, but of practically every single person we have spoken to about the project, including future collaborators, technicians, post-production people providing quotes for services, contacts in local newspapers, etc.
Everyone seems to have a story to tell, and everyone seems to have this particular desire to tell it.
Thank you to Jeremiah and all at Planet Korda Pictures for allowing me to recall, relive and share my memories.
I have finally found a video of the documentary. It lasts one hour fifteen minutes, so put the kettle on, pour the tea and sit back and enjoy! Now remember: No blinking!!