2007_03_arts_barley.jpgThe Wind That Shakes The Barley (directed by Ken Loach): This weekend as all of the Celtic-themed Murray Hill bars fill with green beer drinking louts honor your Irish leanings at the movies with Ken Loach's new film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Winner of last year's big Cannes film festival prize the Palm D'Or, the film follows two brothers caught up in the "troubles" in rural Ireland during the '20s. The always excellent Cillian Murphy plays one of the brothers, a doctor who decides to give up practicing medicine for ridding his country of British soldiers, and as usual his performance is really wonderful. Loach, in previous movies like Bread and Tulips or Sweet Sixteen, has become known for his ability to elicit naturalistic acting performances from his handsome young actors and that style expertly employed in this new movie. Visually, the movie strives to also be low-key, though it is beautifully composed. Scenes that might have been played for massive dramatic appeal--like the murdering of four officers in a pub's back room [pictured]--are delivered with little visual or musical preface and as a result have an even more powerful impact. This should be a note to Hollywood, violence doesn't always have to have the fan fair of a video game. (Fun fact about Loach's casting process/attention to real details: Murphy, as well as other some other actors, are from County Cork where the movie was shot and thus have totally authentic accents.)

For an American viewer unfamiliar with the Irish/British conflict, this movie is incredibly eye opening in terms of the senseless and brutal violence inflicted upon the Irish and their equallly brutal reprisals against the British. Apparently this aspect of Ireland and England's shared history is not often discussed openly and in screening this movie around the world to such critical praise, it has allowed both sides to reveal their experiences, Loach told a preview audience at MoMA last week. As we in the US continue to struggle with Iraq, it's surprisingly resonant to see "terrorists" and "occupiers" clashing on screen in such a different, but not so remote, place in history.

Other major theatrical releases this week include Sandra Bullock's thriller Premonition, Chris Rock's drama I Think I Love My Wife, and two horror movies Dead Silence and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.