Song of Granite
Directed by Pat Collins
The life story of traditional Irish folk singer Joe Heaney, who is estimated to have recorded in excess of 500 traditional Irish sean nós ('old style') songs. Heaney moved from Ireland to the UK, and then on to New York City, where he settled shortly after performing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
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★★★★½ review by Philip Bagnall on Letterboxd
This retelling of the life of sean-nós singer Joe Heaney pisses on biopic convention from the heighest height. Cinematography, editing and music reflect Collins’ methodology: all pristine, but never exploited or overused. A film about the little moments between possible dramas, told with confidence and absolute control.
The finest Irish film this century? B’fhéidir
★★★½ review by johnm1978 on Letterboxd
Pat Collins' Song Of Granite is an oblique and often visually ravishing look at the life of Irish folk singer Joe Heaney, a artist known for following a tradition of storytelling crooners who work without instrumentation. The film, which uses three different actors for the central role, is a poetic and sometimes entrancing look at a dying culture and, while biographical details are scant, prior knowledge of the artist's work is not necessary. The beautiful black and white imagery alone provides provides plenty of reason to watch even when what we're supposed to glean is difficult to comprehend. Collins's film is sometimes a great many things, including a catalogue of melancholy moods and a survey of the landscapes, but it's not anything like a standard history lesson despite it's docudrama stylings. It must be noted that there are a number of authentic, uninterrupted performances staggered throughout, making it an unorthodox musical on top of everything else.
★★★★★ review by Barlayne Fletcher on Letterboxd
Viewed at SXSW
An intimate yet distant portrait of a dying culture. Beauty reflected not through knowledge, but through emotions. Mythology and reality intimately dance with one another in a slow, sure waltz. A black and white world, where truth is scarce and isolation is always in stock. Cinematography is the best I've seen all year, with long takes reminiscent of Haneke or P. T. Anderson, bringing levels of authenticity and atmosphere that's unparalleled by anything else I've seen all year. The editing is phenomenal as well, weaving a seamless tapestry of a man's journey through the world. Everything is so well made, so well put together, yet still so emotionally resonant that it seems like a vision from another world. Truly magical.
★★★★ review by Haystack Sr. on Letterboxd
Just this past week I had dreamt of an exquisite coastal village populated by a few bad men and a healthy dose of absolutely unreal lighting scenarios; by the latter, I mean that in broad daylight, decaying wood on the side of a fishing shack was enough to illuminate a patch of wild seagrass which would have otherwise been shrouded by shade. I wrote it down as soon as I woke up, prompted to do so when the wine bottles which I thrust in the direction of the aforementioned shady characters who frequented this obscure town's single coffee shop failed to hit their targets, and I've taken it as a necessary message that my subconscious has as of yet to deliver in its entirety.
SONG OF GRANITE isn't so much unlike that same dream in the sense that it's formally fascinated by similarly evocative light and brings to mind my reality as of late in the sense that its protagonist constantly grapples with translating his peculiar sensory processing into poetry. Knew nothing about its subject - Irish folk singer Joe Heaney - going in but perhaps this only enhances the dense, alienating fog that director Pat Collins hopes to conjure.
The narrative is largely fragmented, incorporating documentary-like elements as soon as we're convinced that we're witnessing something more straight-forward, and the gorgeous black-and-white photography does more than recall a distant past; in fact, it seems to hint at an amnesiac future, until the lines between the two are effectively blurred. It's also an incredibly moving story of intuitive talent, and how such skills don't go away even when we attempt to separate ourselves from them. T
The intricacies of Heaney's pain, both on-screen and in real life, are ultimately implied rather than explored thoroughly, but we identify with the struggle because we float so freely in his melancholic world. The haze is never overbearing, and the bliss is nothing without the immense sorrow. Basically, it's one of the most balanced movie-going experiences I've had as of late; words can't begin to describe how disappointed I am in myself for not catching this at the Portland Museum of Art during its weekend run a month or so back. Better late than never.
★★★½ review by Luis_989 on Letterboxd
Even if you're like me who knows absolutely nothing about Joe Heaney this is a very interesting and entertaining ride.
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