After writing a series of exposés about church domination of life in Ireland for The Guardian during the late ’60s, Peter Lennon, living in the midst of the New Wave in Paris, figured he should make a film based on his work. He hired ace lensman Raoul Coutard (whose next assignment was Godard’s Weekend) and they hit the streets interviewing priests, writers, schoolkids, and a groggy John Huston. In this acidic snapshot of the country circa 1967, Lennon’s critical voiceover singles out the clergy for stunting the optimism of the 1916 revolution, but it is far from a despairing work, with a gently satiric attitude toward its singing priests and sycophantic politicians. Lennon seemed to know he was documenting the end of an era. In the accompanying 2004 doc The Making of Rocky Road to Dublin, Lennon asks a schoolboy what the ramifications of original sin are—and the kid looks dumbfounded. If the film’s cultural work is finished, its historical place will always be secure. RRTD was the last film projected at the Cannes Film Festival in ’68 before the student protests shut it down, and the making-of has amazing footage of Lennon arguing with Godard and Truffaut after the screening.
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