Monday, March 01, 2010

The Eclipse - Beauty in a Film

I was multi-tasking all weekend - home repair guy, chauffeur ( St. Rita cheerleading), Bloggeur, dutiful Catholic ( 8:30 AM Mass at Sacred Heart - for the Transfiguration), attentive date and Mike Houlihan book signing event attendee - but I had an oportunity to watch a beautiful movie on the otherwise lousy HBO.

Ciarán Hinds plays a teacher tasked with being a driver for celebrity Literary Personalities -guest of the Cobh ( cove) Ireland Literary Festival. Hinds plays Michael Farr, widower with two children, with gracefully sad dignity who goes about his duties as parent and employee with Jansenistic stoicism all day only to be haunted by his loneliness and fears by night. This guy is no whiner.

One of the Literary Figures played with puckish self-absorbtion is Aidan Quinn. His character is "What being an A$$hole is all about," as we south side Chicago Irish are wont to say. Quinn treats people like cocktail napkins - waitresses, someliers, drivers and lovers. He refers to other human beings - those who are not literary lions and icons like himself , and who really is after all, as 'Stalkers.'

Ciaran Hinds is forced to deal with Quinn because of his task and a wonderful woman writer played with delicacy and genuine soul by Iben Hjejle who studies and writes about ghosts and hauntings. Iben Hjejle's character understands loss and also the shallow overtures of a gold plated jerk. She is a terrific woman.

This is the best movie that I have seen in many, many years.

The Eclipse is gentle, but shattering film about about grief, narcissism, ghost, parenting and redemption. The great Irish actor Ciaran Hinds plays a simple man who emerges from his grief over the loss of his wife and exsorcises his own demons when he is forced confront his own loneliness and fear during an Irish Literary Festival.

Ciaran Hinds is the greatest actor since Spencer Tracy. Hinds was named Best Actor for his role in this film at the Tribeca Film Festival last April.

Here are some notes on the film that is running on HBO at this time from the Tribeca Festival. Click my post title for more.

Renowned playwright and filmmaker Conor McPherson attended The Eclipse with two of his actors, leading men Ciarán Hinds and Aidan Quinn. His multi-tasking movie is a fusion of love story, grief study, character comedy and horror. The audience gathered for its world premiere responded to all of those elements enthusiastically: visible seat-jumping and audible gasps sprang from the scares, laughter emerged from the surprising comedic choices, and the drama hit home too, prompting personal stories from some audience members who’d lost loved ones.

“This is the first audience who’s ever seen the film,” McPherson announced to huge applause as the credits ended. He likened the premiere of his ghost story to an “out of body experience.” The Eclipse won praise from the crowd for its digital camera work and expressive original score by Fionnuala Ní Chiosáin, who was also in attendance. The setting and location further elevated the film’s mysterious mood. McPherson’s location team scouted every seaside town in Ireland, but the final decision was swift. “Cobh just had the most visual bang offered and that was it. I needed the gothic thing.”

Ciarán Hinds was open minded about what exactly his widower character was experiencing during the ghostly visitations. “Michael is haunted by his own emotions and his own grief. In a sense it could be real.” Whatever the story, the actors must take it seriously. “One doesn’t play the absurdity. One plays the truth.”

Aidan Quinn seemed thrilled to provide comic relief for a change. “I think it’s an awful terrible thing when an actor gets typecast as being serious.” His novelist character amused him. “That character Nicholas is in his own private Idaho,” he said and joked about preparing for the drunk scenes: “I had to do research. Being Irish, we don’t usually go there. It was difficult for me, but I took one for the team.”

McPherson showered praise on his cast: “I’m not a writer who writes things that people read. I can’t do that. I need great performers to lift the work, and I’ve been very fortunate.” Hinds and Quinn were his first choices, and he felt he was lucky to get them. Quinn, ever quick with a quip, countered, “Brad and Johnny turned it down.”

“I always need a supernatural element in all my stories.” McPherson said. “I think life is supernatural. I don’t think there’s any divide. I think it’s all a huge mystery.” A more practical question emerged: How do you market such a mix of genres? McPherson, light-hearted and thrilled with the premiere, confessed: “Listen, I’m exhausted after making it. I don’t know. It’s a supernatural love story. There are people who are obviously very good at [marketing], so…we need them!”

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