Just a week before Buena Vista does its big budget blockbuster thing again with the third Pirates of the Caribbean film, the studio better known as Disney’s distribution wing is out to show that the Mouse can do serious, indie-flavoured movies as well. Of course, no film put out by a company as vast as Disney can ever truly be considered indie, but with near-legendary director John Boorman at the helm, and with the actual production handled by two tiny British and Irish companies, it’s fair to give The Tiger’s Tale the benefit of the doubt.
Boorman is one of the most enigmatic of all British directors. Having got his big break with the classic Lee Marvin-starring Point Blank back in 1967, one of the defining films of the late 1960s, he went on to gain an Oscar nomination for his doubtless Vietnam-inspired tale of savagery in the wilderness that was 1972’s Deliverance, but then it all went a bit odd. From being Oscar nominated, Boorman went on to produce a pretentious piece of science fiction tosh, Zardoz, starring Sean Connery in an unflattering pair of scarlet pants, porn star moustache, dodgy pony tail and thigh-high boots, before going on to direct the dire Exorcist II.
Then came the bizarre cult classic Excalibur, which was and is still widely ridiculed, before putting out a slew of relatively obscure, often experimental films throughout the 80s and 90s, of which only two stand out as having any wider merit, 1987’s sentimental wartime London memoir Hope and Glory and 1998’s Irish-set crime biopic The General, which won him the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival. His 2001 adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama may have regained him the attention of casual cinemagoers and the big studios, but with another little-watched dud having followed that, to keep Hollywood onside, this latest outing really needed to be something special.
Well, with recent Boorman favourite Brendan Gleeson in the lead – this is their fourth film together – you should know to expect some top-notch acting, at the very least. This is slightly damaged by the unfortunate choice of having Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall as his wife, with a highly unconvincing Irish accent, but that poor bit of casting is happily offset by the presence of the always reliable Ciaran Hinds in support.
The aim of The Tiger’s Tail, which Boorman also wrote, seems to be to provide an allegory of modern Ireland – the new-found economic success clashing with the older sense of the nation’s place in the world. This is most evident in the central plot device – Gleeson’s wealthy property developer, teetering on the brink of his business and marriage collapsing, seemingly being stalked by a murderous doppelganger of himself. Ireland is uncertain of what its new position as a Celtic “economic tiger” is, and Gleeson’s sensitively played character is the personification of this confusion.
The allegory may be a touch too trite, but the powerful central performance ensures that Boorman has added a decent, if not particularly remarkable, movie to his long back catalogue. Most importantly, it seems to have convinced the money men to give him the budget for a genuinely big movie for his next outing – ancient Roman biopic Memoirs of Hadrian. Could be fun.