I recently attended an Irish language conference that played Poitín as the basis of the advanced (for us) class. While we didn't play the film all the way through -- in fact, stopping often to review the dialogue as exercises -- the movie held up very well indeed.
Often, Ireland is used as a setting for fanciful stories involving comely lasses, hard-drinking but dear old men, and luscious scenery. The greatest example of this is probably The Quiet Man, which I adore, but there are many others and not all of American origin. Poitín, however, involves none of this, except for the hard drinking of the Irish moonshine called poitín (pronounced POH-teen, more or less). The film portrays an pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland that certainly looks more authentic than Finian's Rainbow, etc.
Micil, an old moonshiner, lives with his adult daughter on a hardscrabble farm mostly raising sheep but also producing a bountiful crop of poitín. He uses two shifty characters, fiery Labhcas and his dull-witted partner Sleahmnán, as agents or distributors to the local populace. The police are well aware of his activities but haven't caught him yet. Things go awry when a batch of the product is confiscated by the Gardaí then stolen back by the two agents, who decide to double-cross Micil.
There are no truly sympathetic characters in the movie with the exception of the publican, whose legitimate business is undermined by Labhcas and Sleamhnán. Everything is bleak -- the characters, the landscape, the weather, even the cinematography, which looks washed out, giving the film an older, sad feeling. Even the complete lack of a musical score contributes to the bleak mood. The acting is almost uniformly excellent -- Niall Toibin as Labhcas and Cyril Cusack as Micil, especially, both of whom appear on 'Ballykissangel' now. Mick Lally has a smaller role as a Garda sargeant, and he has appeared in films like Circle of Friends and The Secret of Roan Inish, as well as 'Ballykissangel', too.
In short, for its budget and production choices, an amazing film, and it's also amazing how many Irish speakers they used (in 1979!) and how many of them were solid actors. It seems like the Irish-language theatre is a great and mostly untapped resource. If you can get your hands on a copy with subtitles, a definite recommendation for film enthusiasts.
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