Friday 23 August 2019

Television Review: Je suis Charlie, et je suis Ivan

*Charlie (RTE1)
*Ceolchuairt (TG4)*FIFA Ballon d'Or Awards (Sky Sports)

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

As I explained last week in these pages, the baffling thing about TV dramas and movies that are "based on a true story" is not just that they make up so much of it anyway, but that they make up stuff that they don't need to make up at all.

Last Sunday night in Charlie, we were presented with the ultimate example of this weird syndrome in the very last scene, in which "Mara" is saying his famous line, "there'll be no more nibbling at my leader's bum."

Except the "bum" became an "arse".

Why would anybody change that line? How does this happen? By what mechanism of the creative process do scriptwriters and directors decide, after due consideration, that the actual Mara may have said "bum", but for the fictional one they'll go with "arse"?

Not only is it utterly inexplicable in terms of conveying some dramatic truth which might be higher than the one achieved in "real life", in and of itself it has no aesthetic merit.

"Bum" is fine. "Bum" is good. We have no problem with "bum". We like "bum".

But if they simply couldn't stop themselves, there was a perfect opportunity for re-writing in the pay-off line, Mara's "uno duce una voce".

There are certain commentators with an awareness of concepts such as nuance, and context, who have long believed that Mara said this in a spirit of jest, that he was using the device of humour. That if he had tweeted it, he would have added some sort of a symbol indicating that this should not be regarded as an unambiguous statement.

And yet in that shrunken universe inhabited by the political class, many have repeated this line as a straight declaration of Haughey's supposed ambition to rule in the style of a dictator of the 1930s.

So the dramatic and the actual truth might have been better served by giving us a Mara goose-steeping in a theatrical fashion as he issued these orders to the "pol corrs", mocking their sense of Haughey's omnipotence, rather than giving them a direct quote to the effect that Haughey would now be running things in the style of Benito Mussolini.

Instead, the fictional version was somehow even less nuanced than the one favoured for decades by the literal-minded.

* * * * * *

But we don't make that mistake here. We realise that life can be quite complicated, and that certain events are open to many interpretations. So while there is an institutional dishonesty at the core of almost every official effort on behalf of the Irish language, we are still completely in favour of the multi-lingual Ceolchuairt on TG4, which featured Fiachna O Braonain on a musical journey to Morocco.

Indeed the ex-Hot House Flowers man could be one of the great TV presenters. He knows a lot about a lot of things, and he has what Louis Walsh would call a "likeability", even when he takes out his tin whistle in the town square, and starts to play.

Within typical even-handedness, we must also point out that we encountered another Irish rock 'n' roll star of old during the week, who is perhaps not so comfortable with the way that the Irish language is presented to us. As he was watching some current affairs show he learned that there were people translating "Je Suis Charlie" into "Is Mise Cathal", and he said, and I quote, "I felt like I did when I was about 10 years old on the B&I ferry to Liverpool, on the turbulent Irish Sea, constantly trying to control that almost irresistible urge to...."

And then he was gone.

* * * * * *

Fair-minded to a fault, seeing every side of it, we also accept that Ivan Yates is entitled to hold a view of the Stephanie Roche goal which is different to that of the majority.

Such was the miracle of Roche, it enabled many of us to actually watch a FIFA awards ceremony until the end, something we could never do before and will certainly never do again.

While the victory of James Rodriguez killed the potential for a tremendous outpouring of eejitry, James was quick to acknowledge that the Roche goal was great, "a golazo", a perfectly instinctual moment of brilliance.

Yet Ivan Yates was brave too, in being almost alone in disparaging the goal due to the humble setting in which it was scored.

Je suis Ivan.

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