10 August 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
     
Pictiúir Paradiso: Writer/director/producer Paddy Slattery on the films that shaped him
2015-07-24 : Paul Byrne
Nurturing his own little Paddywood down in the wilds of Offaly, Paddy Slattery has been behind, besides and generally all over some of the finest Irish shorts of recent years, including James Fitzgerald’s recent IFTA-nominated ‘Skunky Dog’ (2014) Tristan Heanue’s ‘Today’ (2015) and his own award-winning trio, ‘The Moment’ (2010), ‘Runner’ (2012) and ‘Sojourn’ (2014).

When a serious car accident saw Slattery confined to a bed for a year - a severe spinal cord injury ultimately leaving him in a wheelchair - it was the moment, he later explained, that “my body switched off and my imagination switched on”. Now determined to make films “that will evoke and inspire”, it’s plain that this budding auteur has a long and illuminating career ahead of him.

In the meantime, in his own words, here are the 10 films that have inspired Slattery to become a writer, director, producer, and dreamer.

Paddy Slattery: Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over a long-list of films that have had an impact on my life. That list eventually became a shortlist of about 50 films - and after what seemed like an impossible task, finally, I have whittled that list down to ten. Not easy, so expect a few special mentions below.

This list consists of two defining moments in my life. My pre-filmmaker days and post-filmmaker days, because before I adopted this crazy notion of becoming a filmmaker, I used to watch films very differently. I could suspend my disbelief immediately, the moment that lion roared into the camera. Nowadays, the process of watching a film is far more clinical. I find it impossible to switch my analytical brain off; therefore, it takes an extremely well-crafted and technically brilliant film to hold my attention. I even find myself getting bored by a generic narrative structure. “Once upon a time, they all lived happily ever after”. Who cares? I think I have Tarantino and Tarkovsky to blame for that one.

So, without further ado, and starting with my pre-filmmaker days...

The Snowman (UK 1982/G/26mins)

Yes, a short animation, but what an epic imaginative tale, told through the eyes of a child using beautiful hand-drawn animation. There is no dialogue in this film but the language is cleverly expressed through an orchestral score, accompanied by the timeless classic Walking In The Air. Since it first aired in 1982, this little nostalgic masterpiece has been watched in our family home every Christmas morning, and to this day, it still breaks my heart every time that snowman melts. That loss of innocence captured beautifully. I guess that’s the real tragedy of life – the moment you discover that all these mythical, fantastical characters like the Tooth Fairy and Santa don’t exist… or do they!?

Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (USA 1984/PG/118mins)

As every Irish child growing up in the ‘80s knows, RTE 1 and Network 2 was the land where dreams were born. Pajo’s Jukebox, Action Station Saturday, Anything Goes, Bosco,etc. So, it comes as no surprise that we were all subjected to the same movie playlist over the holiday periods. Patrick’s Day was The Quiet Man, Easter was Ben Hur, Halloween was, er, Halloween and Christmas was... well, we had a few options, including the aforementioned Snowman. My favourite was Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom. It had everything. Comedy, romance, adventure, nasty creepy crawlies, some very scary human sacrifices, rollercoasters that went off cliffs, and a reluctant hero with a whip. Thank you, Spielberg, for destroying my sex life, or enhancing it. I’m not quite sure.

Enter the Dragon (Hong Kong/USA 1973/15A/102mins)

As far back as I can remember, my da used to rent videos from a local guy who, eh, rented out videos, every Saturday, which had to be returned the following week. Videos were all the rage back then and we were lucky enough to have a VHS player (must have fallen off the back of a lorry). Well, my da was into his westerns and martial arts films, but it was the badly over-dubbed ‘kung fu’ classics that really excited me; with the fast paced choreographed fights, slapstick humour and the obligatory moments of sexual violence. Yep, they were over 18s for good reason, but there was nothing more exciting for a boy than watching a video with the red 18s tag on it. Your day was made when you got the glimpse of a woman’s bare breast. What? Let’s be honest, lads! [haha] Bruce Lee became an instant hero of mine and a huge source of inspiration. I would watch his films then walk out into the yard on my tippy-toes, believing I could climb walls with my fingernails. Jackie Chan had his moments, too, but out of all those martial arts films, Enter the Dragon impressed me the most. Plus, the audio was in sync.

The Exorcist (USA 1973/18/122mins)

We grew up in a close-knit housing estate in Offaly and I remember on Saturday nights, when the parents were out, myself and some friends would take turns hanging out at each other’s houses to watch Match of the Day and maybe a film after. Once such night, we happened to get our hands on the Holy Grail of horrors. We were all aware of the stir this film caused during its release and, legend has it, one sorry soul actually died in the theatre during a screening. In the past, we had watched other scary movies together, like Pet Cemetery or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but this was different. This was, apparently, based on true events, so, needless to say, we were excited and petrified in equal measure. So, in the safety of a dark but crowded living room, we watched from behind our hands. There was nervous laughter throughout and no one had the courage to interrupt the film to go to the toilet, on their own. The film eventually ended and we all had to walk our separate ways home, in the dark, down streets dimly lit by street lamps and, you guessed it; there was a f***ing fog down! I remember thanking Jesus and all the saints in heaven that I only lived three doors away. Poor old Johnny had to walk two miles up the lane. We never saw him again. Until the next day.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (UK 1979/12A/94mins)

“Weelease Wodgah!” “What have the Romans ever done for us?” “F@#k off, the Judean People’s Front! We’re the People’s Front of Judea!” “Bikus Dickus” “Half a bloody denarii for my whole life story?” Oh lord, ‘twould bring a tear to a glass eye. A happy tear, of course.

The first time I saw this film, I was in my early teens and beginning to ask those existential questions, like “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?” and “How come I don’t need to shave yet, but all the other lads do?”. Yes, I was curious about the world and it was films like this one that ignited my curiosity. I remember being in stitches from the opening scene, right to the very end. One hilarious line after another. To this day, no comedy has even come close; not even Monty Python’s own The Meaning of Life or The Holy Grail. But, for me, what makes this a brilliant film, and more than just a brilliant comedy, is the intelligent satirical subtext which caused a lot of controversy with the church at the time. It was even banned in certain countries, including our own, which I found absurd. This film was one of the first works of art that led me to question the very nature of religion and the very nature of my own existence. Yes, a madcap comedy did that to me.

MY POST FILMMAKING DAYS

A Clockwork Orange (UK 1971/18/139mins)

Oh, Stanley - look what you’ve done! No other filmmaker inspires me more than Kubrick. It’s almost impossible to single out one of his films so I’ll mention the first one that popped my Kubrick cherry. I cannot remember the year (late ‘90s I think), but British film critic Mark Kermode prefaced this film with an introduction on Film4 as part of their Extreme Season. So, wide-eyed and ready, I felt naughty going into it and a little dumbfounded coming out. I watched what could only be described as a strange, nightmarish, dystopic vision of a lunatic’s imagination – and guess what – I loved it! The very next day I went out looking for anything Kubrick made and eventually purchased a boxset which included the documentary A Life in Pictures. This collection became my ‘filmmakers bible’.

Reservoir Dogs (USA 1992/18/99mins)

Tarantino, just like Kubrick, but to a lesser extent, was one of the filmmakers that made me think “Wow. I want to do that for a living”, and Reservoir Dogs, closely followed by Pulp Fiction, was one of the films that excited me like few films could. The dialogue in particular was fresh, witty, cool and flowed beautifully; like poetry. Many of my early short scripts were failed attempts at capturing the essence of Tarantino’s fast-paced dialogue. In fact, I’m currently in development with my first feature film, titled The Broken Law of Attraction, which is heavily influenced by his dialogue-driven style. I also love his direction, the use of non-linear structuring and how his choice of music is integral to the visual and emotional context of a scene, almost to the point of it being a music video.

Lawrence of Arabia (UK 1962/PG/216mins)

By the time I was introduced to David Lean’s work, I already had notions of becoming a filmmaker. In my early twenties I was buying DVDs like they were going out of fashion. Not just for the film but for the Special Features and Director’s Commentary - which was, essentially, my film school. So, I’m in XtraVision and I remember picking up this DVD with the handsome Peter O’Toole on the cover. I had heard of it before but was in two minds – buy a classic or buy a new release? I’m ashamed to say it now but do you know what did it for me? On the cover, over the image, was a quote from Steven Spielberg that read ‘A miracle of a film’. Sold! I took it home, watched it and… Well, without exaggeration, it was like a spiritual awakening. Filmmaking perfection. Very few films hit that mark for me and this was one of them. Just, perfect. That jump-cut from the burning match to the sunrise on the horizon. That Omar Sharif introduction at the well. That camel rescue in the desert scene elevated by that score. That train robbery, etc, etc. I have yet to watch this epic masterpiece on a big screen but I’m confident I will, one day, even if I have to build the screen and buy the film print myself.

Mean Streets (USA 1973/18/112mins)

In my opinion, this film is far from being a masterpiece, but for some reason I keep returning to it. I love the Italian-American gangster genre (particularly The Godfather trilogy) but this felt more social-realistic. Almost documentary-like in places. Having Harvey Keitel and Robert de Niro in the lead roles probably helps. But just like Tarantino’s dialogue-driven style will influence my first feature, Scorsese’s Mean Streets will play a huge part in influencing the complexities of my protagonist/antagonist. There were many independent filmmakers producing great work in America during the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s, such as Brian de Palma, John Cassavetes, Oliver Stone, Michael Cimino, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola, but for me, Scorsese reigns supreme. Mean Streets not only marked the beginning of a collection of great films from the great man - most notably Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but his films also opened doors into other peoples work for me, including Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci. Soon after, I was discovering European cinema, and filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noe, Werner Herzog and Ingmar Bergman, to name but a few.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (New Zealand/USA 2001/PG/178min/2002/PG/179mins/2003/PG/201mins)

As much as I love a bit of grit and gravel in a film, I also have a soft spot for some Celtic mysticism, fantasy and romance. I’ve never read Tolkien’s books but I was aware of the folklore (elves, wizards, hobbits, etc.) and was also a huge fan of the Robin Hoods, Bravehearts and Rob Roys of this genre; especially when they were accompanied by those Clannad and Horner music scores which stir the deeper crevices of my soul. For me, LOTR was not just a brilliantly-told story adorned with several brilliantly imagined characters, but it was also a technically brilliant film production that pushed the boundaries of CGI and art direction, on an epic scale. It was like someone took a plunge into my own imagination and pulled out this fully formed world that may or may not have existed centuries ago. There’s also this strange desire of mine to live in a Hobbit hole on a Shire overlooking fields, lakes and forestry, with mountains and castles far off on the horizon… and, ah… umm…. Maybe I’ll leave it there... [ahem].

Special Mentions - Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, James Cameron’s T1 and T2, Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, Jim Sheridan’s The Field, Cecil B DeMille’s Samson and Delilah, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona.

For more info on Paddy Slattery’s work, visit www.paddyslattery.com.





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