For many, John Ford’s The Quiet Man is a masterpiece that will stand the test of time, or at least that’s what the makers of this documentary tell me. The Quiet Man was released in 1952, based on a Saturday Evening Post short story by Maurice Walsh. Even if the original wasn’t initially intended as a booster for Irish tourism this new documentary most certainly is. It fetishises the landscape as much as its namesake, and makes sure to show you the gift shop and Cohan’s Bar in the town of Cong where the film was shot so you know how to properly plan your Quiet Man getaway.
Loopline, the makers of this documentary, have a long list of other documentaries on their resume, mostly concerning the arts in Ireland or Irish culture in general, winning awards for documentaries such as Patrick Kavanagh – No Man’s Fool at the Boston Film festival. John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man had its world premiere at the Cork Film Festival, and was introduced by Maureen O’Hara herself. What with Ford being one of the most notorious directors in the studio system era, you’d think that the story of one of his most famous and, in some circles, controversial films to date would be fascinating. But it’s not. It’s really, really, really not.
The narrator’s voice is dull and made-up, and not in that charming Cary Grant sort of way, making it seem like a voiceover was a last minute decision which cheapens the overall feel of the documentary. Most of all it is inconsistent; it feels like several crews shot different scenes and never spoke to each other or the editor. From start to finish it’s mostly just anecdotes about how Ford was one mean-aul-son-of-a-bitch but oh he was still the respected patriarch of the cast and crew. It is noted he happily abandons his family to work on the film in Ireland. This dichotomy of the crew-family he worked ragged versus the real family he left behind would have been intensely more interesting, as would watching paint dry.
If you haven’t seen The Quiet Man then this documentary has nothing for you as its tempo and editing would suit a Special Edition DVD extras menu rather than a trip to the cinema. However, if you love The Quiet Man because of its patriarchal values, its romanticism and all the unwashed Irish character the Abbey Players could muster then I recommend reading a book on Ford instead.