Monday 23 April 2018

Camden Chaos review - 'a warm-hearted but disjointed portrait of a Dublin party-spot'

Noel on Camden Chaos
Ed Power

Ed Power

Camden Chaos was a warm-hearted but disjointed portrait of a Dublin party-spot which, depending on the hour, can resemble the sleepy main street of a provincial town or ground zero for the zombie apocalypse, with hordes of drunken 20-nothings drafted in as kebab-toting extras.

What the documentary failed to do was peel back the skin and offer any insights into these contrasting identities and the tensions that might arise between the two. The closest was a genteel rant from a lady behind the counter at a jewelers, aghast at the nightly displays of public urination.

Otherwise, the tone was exhaustingly upbeat and frequently cheesy. There were references to 'horny singles on the pull' and a yoga studio in the 'arse end' of the neighbourhood.

Allied to the sort of wacky camera angles to which RTE remains addicted, there was a tiresome sense of film-makers trying to get down with the hoodie-clad masses and the suspicion, not entire welcome, that viewer was supposed to approve of the boozy shenanigans unfolding on screen.

Still amid the 'way-hey-hey' shtick and annoying voiceovers were glimmers of a more interesting documentary. It was fascinating, for instance, to see Irelands old and new collide via a South American pageant that, for all its exoticism, ultimately unfolded like a Latin American Rose of Tralee (complete with contestants performing toe-curling parlor tricks).

And there was a flash of human drama in a segment about Rain, a night club for older people – beneath their slightly forced high spirits, a melancholy seemed to hang over the patrons. "You try to come and let yourself go a little bit," said Noel, downbeat despite his blinding baco-foil shirt. The downside, he added, was that you inevitably had to "go back to reality afterwards".

Meet Noel, King of the Dancefloor at Rain nightclub, Dublin for the past decade 

Sadly, too much of Camden Chaos was devoted to chronicling the shenanigans of young people enjoying blotto nights out. Here, it had nothing smart to say. We learned that kids drank too much, weren't as mindful about STDs as they ought to be and gobbled chips to excess after tumbling out of nightclubs. This would make them different from previous generations how exactly?

For non-Dubliners, Camden Chaos was especially chuckle-worthy. We were given to understand that Camden Street was the focal point of a fashionable, forward-looking new capital. But, with its butchers and undertakers, its pubs and its late-hours drunks, what it really felt like was any medium-sized town in any corner of the country. The dirty little secret which the documentary was at pains to sidestep was that Camden Street truly isn't all that unique or glamorous.

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