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Friday 15 December 2017

Ken Loach admits his swansong call was premature

HE built it and they came in their sparkling jewellery and their immaculately cut dresses.

The venue in question was 'Jimmy's Hall', the new film which veteran director Ken Loach premiered in Cannes last night.

A few months ago, Loach suggested the picture might be his swansong but yesterday he admitted he'd declared his retirement prematurely, "at a moment of maximum pressure" during the making of 'Jimmy's Hall', and that he feels differently now he's come out the other end. "It's a hard job to give up," Loach said with a wry smile.

The new film by Loach, who won the Palme d'Or in 2006 for 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' based on Ireland's 1922-23 civil war, returns to the rural Ireland of a decade later, when the divisions from the conflict are still raw.

Into this tinderbox steps Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), a little-known historical figure. He was a communist when there were only 100 in the entire country, bringing back to his native Ireland a set of views he developed in America during the Great Depression.

At first the once-popular Gralton tries to stay aloof and live quietly with his mother. But neighbours who had helped him build a now-abandoned dance hall ask him to reopen it – and teach them the swing dancing he learned in America.

This and other actions quickly bring Gralton and his supporters into conflict with the Catholic church and he ultimately becomes the only citizen of the Irish Republic to be deported from the country – for holding an American passport – without a hearing.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty said his portrayal of Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), who finds jazz to be the tool of the devil, was more nuanced than his research had shown actual church leaders of the time to be. "They were almost too crude and too vicious and to write someone like that, it just wouldn't have been interesting," he said.

Loach, known for his left-wing views, said that if Gralton were alive "the ideas he fought for at the time, I think they're even more relevant today".

Loach said one of the dispiriting trends in movies has been the phasing out of film in favour of digital. Loach not only still shoots on film, but he edits on film, too.

"You can check on the cricket score, you can get a cup of coffee," said Loach. "It's a much more human way of working."

But while cutting the film Loach and his editors ran out of an out-of-production edge-numbering tape. They sent out "an SOS" and were rescued by an unlikely saviour: Pixar. The digital animation company sent the tape, along with a cartoon of Loach and his team.

Irish Independent

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