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Pictúir Paradiso: ‘Father Ted’ co-creator Arthur Mathews on the films that shaped him
26 Jun 2015 : Paul Byrne
Writer Arthur Mathews

Continuing our Pictúir Paradiso column which looks at influential Irish artists and the films that shaped them, IFTN talked to writer Arthur Mathews, co-creator (along with Graham Linehan) of adorned Irish sitcom ‘Father Ted’, as well as ‘Big Train’ and ‘Toast of London’ .

HEIMAT: A CHRONICLE OF GERMANY (Germany 1984/15/3,205mins)

This is about fifteen hours long, so been mostly broadcast on television in one or two hour sections, but since it’s often been show in the cinema (including the IFI), it’s often classed as a film. I first saw it in 1984 and have watched it many times since. Spanning life in a German village from the end of World War 1 to the time it was made in the 1980s, it resonated with me a lot, especially its portrayal of the main character’s mixed feelings on the country/city dichotomy. Any story that spans a long time I usually fine moving. In the final episode, we are re-united with many of the characters who have died during the story. It’s incredibly moving.

THE DEAD (UK/IrelandUSA 1987/PG/83mins)

Despite being set in 1904, I think this is the most accurate depiction of Dublin life I’ve seen in a cinema. (Dubliners are usually portrayed on screen as a bunch of inarticulate brutes or eejits). Donal McCann is magnificent as the decent but somewhat disappointed-in-life Gabriel Conroy, and Anjelica Huston as his wife Gretta has never been better. (And her accent is fine too - well, she did more or less grow up in Galway). I love the final ‘snow is falling all over Ireland scene’ (which we borrowed for Father Ted). I sometimes think John Huston’s best films were his first (The Maltese Falcon) and this, his last one.

COME AND SEE (Soviet Union 1985/16/140mins)

The best war film ever - probably. Horrendous and disturbing sights and sounds assault the viewer as the Nazis invade Belarus in 1941. I rarely watch films more than once (and hardly watch war films at all), but I’ve seen this four or five times. It’s truly ghastly - but an example of quite brilliant film making. Truly mezmerising.

THE HEARTBREAK KID (USA 1972/PG/106mins)

Charles Grodin at his finest. Also a brilliant example of how to direct comedy (by Elaine May). Lots of wide shots and long scenes - which goes against the current fashion for fast cutting and the camera constantly jigging up and down (which drives me completely mad). Written by Neil Simon - and it’s got the Carpenters’ ‘Close To You’ as it’s theme song. There was a dreadful re-make with Ben Stiller a few years ago. (I usually like Ben Stiller; his performance in ‘Greenberg’ - another genuinely funny film, is great).

SIGHTSEERS (UK 2012/16/88mins)

I was wary of seeing this. Ben Wheatley’s previous film, Kill List, was so sickeningly violent I had to turn it off when it popped up on Film Four. But this is a truly great comedy film. Consistently funny, and full of black humour (and I’m not usually not a fan of ‘black’ humour at all). Great performances from Steve Oram and Alice Lowe. Lots of very, very funny moments. I wish I’d done this.

NOW, VOYAGER (USA 1942/PG/117mins)

I saw this at a particularly happy time in my life, and as I’m a bit of a romantic, I’ll go for this classic black and white tearjerker. I never thought Bette Davis was a particularly good actress (a bit mannered, I’ve always felt) but she was always in good films.

THE WORLD AT THEIR FEET (Mexico 1970/PG/95mins)

The official film of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Actually, I didn’t really get interested in football until the 1970-71 season, but there’s something iconic about this. The first World Cup to be broadcast in colour - and we didn’t have a colour television at the time. But I am completely obsessed with the year of 1970, and I taped this when the BBC broadcast it last year. Forty five years on it looks positively other-worldly.

KILL BILL VOL 1 (USA 2003/16/111mins) VOL 2 (USA 2004/18/124mins)

I think Quentin Tarantino is a genius, and I love Uma Thurman in this. I sometimes think I could direct a simple film (like ‘Sightseers’ for example), but how could you even begin to create something on this level? It’s a completely different ball game. A technical tour de force! And a great soundtrack.

RAGING BULL (USA 1980/16/129mins)

De Niro is actually quite funny in this; especially when he’s bickering (constantly) with Joe Pesci. I love the black and white cinematography and the use of classical music.

THE FISHER KING (USA 1991/15A/137mins)

I always used to say this was one of my favourite films, but I haven’t seen it in years, and can’t remember much about it; except Robin Williams singing ‘I like New York in June!!!’. I should either: a) see it again, or b) not see it again, as I may be disappointed.

Check out our previous Pictuir Paradiso articles with ‘Let Us Prey’ director Brian O’Malley and ‘Sing Street’ soundtrack curator Gavin Glass.




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