February 25, 2009
The Tiger's Tail, 2006
The fable of catching a tiger by the tail only to be bitten back serves as a wry allegory for the modern day booming economy of Ireland, dubbed the Celtic tiger, in John Boorman's The Tiger's Tail. A contemporary retelling of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, Boorman establishes the profound social disparity created in the wake of the country's rapid economic development in the opening shot of well-respected property developer, Liam O'Leary (Brendan Gleeson) trying to navigate his way through a traffic jam on a bustling Dublin street, where shiny new automobiles become sitting targets for squeegee men and street hawkers (often bearing newspapers that reflect equally grim social statistics), and the reliance on new technology collides with old world realities of grazing sheep inopportunely planting themselves in the middle of the road to rest. (In one episode, Liam's reliance on his cell phone to communicate with his attractive trophy wife, Jane [Kim Cattrall] precludes him from noticing that he has been driving alongside her in the next lane.) Believing that he has crossed paths with his doppelgänger among the panhandlers on the road, Liam's life becomes increasingly complicated when the sighting turns out not to be a harbinger of his own death, but the surfacing of a double out to steal his identity and assume his privileged life. At the core of Boorman's sincere and commendable, if well worn cautionary tale on materialism, spiritual bankruptcy, and urban alienation is the idea of a modern, amnesic, and soulless society built on the hollow foundations and buried transgressions of the past: a forgotten and unreconciled history that is not only reflected in the relational dynamic between Liam and the people around him (most notably, in the degenerative memory loss suffered by Liam's elderly mother, his sister Oona's (Sinéad Cusack) long harbored secret, and a childhood friend's instability stemming from the trauma of abuse), but also in the cutthroat, often underhanded way he conducts business that reflect the exploitation and inhumanity of corporate politics.