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Black 47 (2018)

Movie Title: Black 47 (2018)
Director: Lance Daly
Stars: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea
Release Date: 28 September 2018 (USA)
Genres: Action , Drama
Format: MatRoska (Mkv)
File Size: 300MB
Language: English

Maybe people would place more value on beauty if they could eat it,” says Conneely (Stephen Rea) during an atypically warm-toned fireside scene in Lance Daly’s powerful period revenge fable “Black 47.” His bland affability is such that you could almost miss the splinter of loathing in his eyes. The year is 1847, Ireland’s Great Famine is scarcely even approaching its devastating midpoint, and Conneely makes his barbed observation in response to an English landlord’s callous remark about how the ragged and starving locals show no appreciation for the stark grandeur of the Connemara landscape.

But it also illuminates the void into which Daly (“Kisses,” “The Good Doctor,” “Life’s a Breeze”) pours his taciturn, oddly cathartic little story. The appreciation of beauty, and the creation of art to celebrate it, is easier achieved when there’s something in your belly, which accounts for why so little of it remains to us from this time and place. Compared to other eras in Ireland’s history, there is no great wealth of contemporary Famine literature, few photographs document its excesses and even fewer films. It’s as though, through a combination of catastrophic crop failure and a deliberate program of socio-economic deprivation, people were too busy dying where they stood to bother pondering the mysteries of life.

Black 47 (2018)

And so this may well be the first encounter international audiences will have had with the Great Hunger, and for them Daly delivers a resonant, beautifully performed Irish Western that benefits from the exotic sound of Irish Gaelic spoken as a living language, and the brackish majesty of cinematographer Declan Quinn’s wide vistas. But Quinn is more closely associated with such intimate dramas as “Leaving Las Vegas” and the films of Jonathan Demme, and he never loses the humans for their bleakly picturesque backdrop. Similarly, Brian Byrne’s ominous score contains some traditional uilleann pipe flourishes but avoids cliched Irishness with its brooding, disquieting anti-melodic edge of modernity.

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For today’s Irish audiences, or anyone acquainted with the full freight of the word “Sassenach” as it’s used here (it simply means “Englishman” but carries all sorts of pejorative associations in context), there’s more to “Black 47”: There’s the satisfaction of seeing an ancient, rankling injustice addressed, be it only through fiction. Daly’s restrained, pared-down style is the opposite of flashy exploitation cinema, but watching these bastions of lethally repressive British rule get some overdue comeuppance is similarly stirring.

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