Synopsis: Brendan Behan (1923-1964) was, among other things, a drunkard, an IRA activist, a public nuisance, and an ex-con. He once approached a group of shoppers standing in line and begged money from them, saying he had ten children at home to feed. What he didn't say is that he wanted the money so that he could get good and drunk and forget about his children for a while. Offsetting that, if anything can, is the fact that he became a worldwide celebrity for his literary works, including several plays (The Quare Fellow, The Hostage), his autobiography (The Borstal Boy) and many poems and short stories. This respectful but unflinching documentary interviews family members and associates (he had few friends) to portray the life of this driven, self-absorbed man. — Clarke Fountain
New York Times Review
By WALTER GOODMAN
Published: April 28, 1988
Brendan Behan's life can be divided into three parts: his youthful years in an English jail for his activities in behalf of the Irish Republican Army; his writing, drawn largely from his experiences as a prisoner, and his prodigious boozing, which resulted in his death in 1963 at the age of 41. "A Hungry Feeling," Allan Miller's affecting documentary, which opens at Film Forum 1 today, tells his story through the people who knew him best — wife, brothers, I.R.A. comrades and fellow drinkers in the Dublin pubs, where he seemed most at home. We learn from his mother that it was his grandmother who gave him his first sip of stout.
Their recollections, interrupted now and then for an old I.R.A. battle song, are accompanied by dramatized excerpts from the three works that brought Behan international fame in the 1950's — the autobiographical "Borstal Boy," "The Quare Fellow" and "The Hostage" — and by newsreel clips of the writer holding forth (usually while holding a glass) and being carted off to jail after barroom rows. A brother recalls, "He got a great kick out of putting policemen's heads through Trinity College fence."
"Brendan was a theater himself," says Joan Littlewood, who first produced his plays, and indeed, he comes through as something of a stage Irishman who talked, sang and drank more than the men twice his size with whom he was wont to get into fights. Yet the glimpses of his writing, full of humor, humanity and rich prose, remind us of how big a talent lay behind the blather and the binges.
In all his works, Behan's heart and his pen went out equally to captors and captives, whom he saw as joined by common human sympathies. His success seems to have had a more destructive effect than jail. As though mocking his own celebrity, he appeared on television interviews both in Britain and the United States in a state of near stupefaction, flustering such veteran interviewers as Malcolm Muggeridge and Edward R. Murrow.
"A Hungry Feeling" is an affectionate look that does not gloss over its subject's weaknesses. One of Behan's old pals pictures him as a shy man who needed people but could not approach them without alcohol. As though warning against such pat interpretations, however, the Borstal boy himself tells a prison official, "I haven't any inhibitions, and my complexes are all in order." His long-suffering wife, Beatrice, sums up his final years: "Between his drinking and his talking, there was little left for anything else." That, this illuminating work confirms, was his tragedy and our loss. Surviving Jail But Not Success A HUNGRY FEELING: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BRENDAN BEHAN directed and produced by Allan Miller; photography by Don Lenzer; edited by Tom Haneke; narrated and songs sung by Liam Clancy; distributed by Frist Run Features. At Film Forum 1, 57 Watts Street. Running time: 85 minutes. This film has no rating.
See Volune Two for credits …
This is the second of a two volume set of video recordings capturing folk balladeer Liam Clancy and his talented band of musicians live at Dublin's Olympia Theatre in 1991 for two wonderful evenings of song, music and poetry.
The two-part film includes never-seen performance footage and interviews with artists and musicians whose lives intertwined with Dylan’s during that time. For the first time on camera, Dylan talks openly and extensively about this critical period in his career.
In addition to being interviewed, Liam Clancy sings "Girl from the North Country".
Specially staged and filmed before an invited audience at the legendary Bitter End club, this concert is a rare and intimate portrait of one of the greatest ballad singers of our time. Liam Clancy is joined on stage for a number of remarkable performances by Odetta, Tom Paxton, Shane McGowan, Eric Bibb, Fiona Regan and Gemma Hayes.
This intimate, confessional and highly cinematic documentary film charts the remarkable rise to fame of these devil-may-care Irish singers, from their small-town beginnings in County Tipperary in Ireland to the folk hey-day of Greenwich Village in the Sixties where they played for JFK and out-sold the Beatles.
Featuring exclusive footage, interviews and additional performances from the man Bob Dylan called "the best ballad singer I ever heard in my whole life. Still is, probably".