DVD Movie Review: Song of Granite

By Thom Compton 15.04.2018

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Song of Granite (UK Rating: U)

Whether it's learning the origins of Johnny Cash's twang in Walk the Line or learning Ray Charles' roots in Ray, it's always interesting getting to see where people's favourite musicians came from. While Joe Heaney probably isn't a household name, depending on where you live, he was an important figure in Irish folk music. Song of Granite - released on DVD across the UK on 2nd April via Thunderbird Releasing - attempts to take viewers through Joe's life, but ends up feeling like a mess of incomprehensible nonsense that requires people to hold their pinky up the whole time they watch it.

Shot entirely in black and white, the film seems to be designed to focus on Joe and his relationship with sound. There aren't a lot of scenes of talking, as scenes tend to be a mix between Joe singing and people singing near Joe. It features prominent moments of sound, so much so that noise pops off the screen. To his credit, young Joe has an excellent singing voice, and hearing the various voices throughout can be pleasing.

The problem is that most of this biopic has absolutely no context. Joe ages twice in the film, and there's no mention of it; you are just expected to follow. That's the singular mantra here, as events just unfold, largely ignoring any sense of narrative path or framing. Things are just happening, and the most prominent of those things is watching people watch Joe sing.

A scene in a bar features two full numbers, and while the first is beautifully performed by a woman, the second, performed by Joe, is a bit more endless. It just feels like this scene goes on and on, never really justifying itself other than "look how good of a singer we found to play this guy." He's a good singer, but thanks to no real sense of story, it really doesn't matter. It's confusing, and worse yet, really boring.

There are also quick moments that do a better job of connecting the story, but they still feel like they don't amount to much. Who is that woman sitting at the table in Joe's apartment? Is he is a bell hop? Did he stay a bell hop even after recording his music? The whole experience is extremely disjointed and annoying.

On top of this, there are moments of footage of the real Heaney, giving certain moments a documentary feel. Joe occasionally even speaks over the imagery on-screen, lending even more to the idea that some parts are dramatic narrative, and some are documentary. It's irritating, and since there's no real flow to the whole thing, it makes the experience feel like an exercise in trying to figure out where in this man's life the viewer currently is, and why the film refuses to explain almost anything to the audience.

To the film's credit, it's very pretty. Ireland is a gorgeous country, and the outside shots are very well done, although there's something very first-year-photography-student about most of them. Despite the lack of originality in the shots, they are still very breathtaking, and really are the only thing about Song of Granite that is enjoyable to watch for more than a few moments at a time.

Rated 3 out of 10


Song of Granite is experimental, and the experiment was not a success. Instead, this confusing, unhinged collection of ideas feels like a storyboard strung together with the explanation of being an experiment. While it may have its place in art houses and film school lectures, Song of Granite has no place in the list of recommendations from this reviewer. It's just a boring, confusing, mess of a film, and even after ingesting all it has to offer, it's hard to really tell if anything happened, or if this is the kind of movie satirists are making fun of when they talk about weird black and white art school projects.

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