Terry McMahon V Donald Clarke


On Saturday, Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke (above) complained at some length that a quote of his had been used on the side of buses in Dublin to promote the movie Charlie Casanova, directed by Terry McMahon (top) and released on May 11.

Clarke said he would rather drink “caustic soda’ than be seen to endorse the movie.

Adding: “When I mentioned the bus business to fellow critics, few of whom were any more fond of Charlie Casanova, they made comical side-clutching gestures and fell theatrically from their seats. After pulling himself together, one then commented: “That has to be illegal.” A phone call to The Irish Times’s lawyers confirmed that such quote-mining could conceivably involve an infringement of the journalist’s copyright. Misrepresenting a critic for financial gain is not considered ‘fair usage’.”

Yesterday, Terry McMahon gave a detailed response on his blog which concluded:

“…The truth is, Donald, you don’t know me. We’re not friends. If we were, you’d know I’d come out fighting. You’d know I wouldn’t allow you take food off my kid’s table. When you dialed those Irish Times lawyers, did you not feel the need to run your future article past them? Defamation is a serious business, Donald. Do your lawyers know, Donald, that, with the might of The Irish Times behind you, you have unlawfully done discernible damage to the reputation and livelihood of a citizen? I don’t f*****ng think so. So, should you find yourself forced to choose between caustic soda and a re-watch of Charlie Casanova, you can speed dial those Irish Times lawyers because they’ll be there for you, Donald Clarke, diluted caustic soda in one hand and a copy of Sweet Smell of Success in the other, all prepped to skip to the JJ Hunseker scene where he says, “You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.” If you don’t believe me, Donald, ask your lawyers.”

Clarke’s piece: Five Stars? I Don’t F**king Think So (Donald Clarke, Irish Times)”

McMahon’s Response: Charlie Casanova and Donald Clarke (Terry McMahon)

Clarke illustration by Tom Galvin

120 thoughts on “Terry McMahon V Donald Clarke

  1. Michael

    Surely if either of these guys were planning on suing each other rather than just posturing about it, they wouldn’t write legally threats so casually in their columns/blogs. And if the movie maker isn’t actually going to sue then what few people read his blog are just going to have their attention drawn to a bad review of his film and his misrepresentation of that bad review. Shooting himself in the foot I think.

    1. Nigel

      Well, the critic made it clear he never had any intention of suing anyone, he was just interested in the legality of using dodgy quotes.

  2. Barbara

    Brilliant advertising of the film! Now with all this makes me want to go see it to make my own decision. Job done.

    1. Gav D

      Hi Barbara.

      The fact that you’re a friend of the film maker (as one can see by checking the comments on the blog post by the director) obviously has nothing to do with you sticking up for the film, right?

      Have you not already seen the film? Very disingenuous, I must say. Strangely similar to the nature of how that quote was put on the bus poster.

    2. DU3M4N J!E


      Judge it for yourself…

      Prob something good in it if the Film Board tried so hard to avoid it.


  3. Bucko

    This film is F*****G awful. It’s director is a babbling moron with about as much insight into Irish society as a newt! Seriously, youtube him and see…. a more awful case of self importance you’ll never find. Movie making equivalent of an x factor contestant!

    1. Pedanto, the Hilarity Man

      “Movie-making X factor … Much insight into Irish society”

      – Bucko

      1. Hamm, Cieso & Tomatos Barristers

        The writ is in the post on behalf of my client Bucko…see you in the Four Courts

        1. Pedanto, the Hilarity Man

          I’m taking your quotes out of context. They might be on the side of a bus by the weekend.

    2. Crammer

      Agreed, McMahon is a rambling arsehole trying to present this Dublin boy come good with the same old wise-ass vocab he always had. Not a filmaker.

      1. Bucko

        “Not a film maker” Agreed, I know a dozen other assholes in Dublin doing exactly the same thing, self publicity is no publicity.

        1. Crammer

          Just because you can make a film for €937 doesnt mean you should. And certainly doesnt make it any better.

      2. Anne

        Totally agree. And to make it worse you just know all this insult is probably just adding to his already enormous ego.

  4. Jack

    It’s so cheap to play the working class card as well when Donald Clarke did nothing of the sort.

  5. Beano

    I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment. A lot of critics are nauseatingly arsey in their reviews and certainly Clarke’s original review reads that way but that’s his job, he can’t like everything. If you’re a filmmaker you have to take it on the chin and not go all ‘Chris De Burgh’ when you get a bad review.

  6. Listrade

    Right, nice come-back. Well apart from the bit where you criticise critics and a critic in pacticular but were more than happy to pull a quote from his review and stick on a bus to sell a film before he came out and said he thought the film was sh*t (it is).

    Or a whole rant where you skip over the issue of misrepresnting critic’s reviews to sell films and instead focus on one reviewer.

    If all those other reviewers had supported the film and been so glowing, why not just quote them instead of taking a line from a largely negative review from someone you don’t like?

    There are plenty of incompetent film reviewers across the whole media who’s frame of reference for movies begins with Transformers and they’ll basically give a review however the distributers want as long as there’s a few free lunches in it for them.

    Instead you wanted a recognised and respected critic, he didn’t like it, but that didn’t stop you trying to sell the movie by misrepresenting his words. You were called out, suck it up and don’t make a tit of yourself with a pretty pathetic blog rant.

  7. Murph

    Had the misfortune of seeing this film last week.
    As soon as I got home I Googled some of the reviews to find out how the hell it had gotten so many positive ones. It hadn’t.
    The “Remarkable” quote from TheJournal.ie was the first one I checked.
    It actually came from an interview, not a review & it was the director himself who said it was remarkable that the movie got picked for the SXSW festival.
    I checked a couple of others & they were all just as misleading. Not just taking the positive bits from an overall bad review but actually changing the meaning of sentences by taking words out of context.

    The directors response to Clarke is just more shameless self promotion.

      1. Mr Potato

        in fairness to terry, he was in the greatest irish film ever made: Moving Target.

          1. Not the King of Spain

            The phrase “is there any start to his talents?” leaps out at me.

  8. Wallaby

    But. But. He still misrepresented what Clarke said, didn’t he? He needs to talk to Sinn Fein fellas about defending a quote…

  9. Frank Ozymandias

    McMahon’s piece serves only to show that he can look up the “Memorable Quotes” page for Sweet Smell of Success on the imdb, in order to pepper his argument with carefully-chosen lines of his own. Pathetic.

    1. VOTE NO Frilly Keane

      Anyone connected to the Irish Times is in no place to use the expression “quote mining”

    2. steve white

      and in his recent piece he said he laughed at it too

      ps where’s the defamtion he jsut said his film was crap

  10. mouldyman

    I read the original review….doesn’t look taken out of context to me. It’s not even clear what “jaw dropping” means *inside* the review.

  11. Assvertising

    Whatever about the quality of the film, if you look at Donald Clarke’s original review, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2011/0712/1224300551175.html, you can see that he does in fact use the sentence “It turns out to be a pretty jaw-dropping piece of work.” in a way which does seem reasonably complimentary. So he hasn’t been misquoted – it hasn’t been chopped up, it’s simply selective.

    So what is the story here? here’s the line in his rant that says it “it is polite to delay such rabbit punching until the week of release”. There you go – Clarke didn’t have the balls to tell the truth about the film from the beginning, and is twisting his own words now. If it’s a shit film, it’s a shit film, and he should have said so from the start.

    Or, to put it mildly, if you are any way a decent journalist, you should be able to write a fookin review in such a way as not to be misquoted.

    1. sycopat

      The only way the quote can be taken as complimentary is if you stop reading the review at the quoted line and intentionally assume a positive meaning for ‘jaw-dropping’. It is in no way a positive review: Acting ok, technicals meh, dialogue awful. And you are obviously not any form of journalist or public figure to claim it’s easy to not be misquoted. Being taken out of context is a misquotation as much as any chopping up of sentences is.

      1. Dave, Dublin

        Clarke’s opinion of the film seems to have hardened significantly since his Galway Film Fleadh review. But he’s just re-hashing a story he’s already written with added hyperbole about the bus ad.

        It’s just a case of two gobshites arguing about which one is more objectionable. I’d call it a draw.

  12. robocan

    I won’t lie, I love this film. Half the audience leaves, half the audience gives it a standing ovation. It’s that divisive. And from my own narrow understanding of ‘Art’, isn’t that the whole point? To be provocative. Demand some attention. Say something that changes peoples day.

    Personally I think Terry may have gone a bit overboard. But the media handbags are clearly just part of their marketing policy. It’s an abrasive film, controversy is what’s gonna sell it.

    1. VOTE NO Frilly Keane

      Is it up in Pirate Bay?
      Would love t’know which side I’d be on

  13. Robbie

    Brilliant that when I clicked on the Irish Times link I was bombarded with ads for the movie

    1. sycopat

      Nope, plagirism is taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. Taking your own work and passing it off as your own is fortunately not illegal and hopefully never will be.

      1. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

        If we go after people for rehashing their anecdotes I will be first and second against the wall.

      2. Assvertising

        Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism – i.e. producing the same material again without acknowledging previous instance. Neither are illegal. Debatable whether that occurred here, though it’s undeniable that both individuals have made asshats of themselves.

        1. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

          You can plagiarise youself, oddly enough, if someone other than the author owns the rights to the original work. John Fogerty was sued by the publisher of his back catalogue for plagiarising one of his own songs. (He won, because the songs were sufficiently different.)

          Repeating an anecdote is a bit weak, but it’s hardly criminal. I presume Clarke thought most of the print readers hadn’t seen it in the blog.

          1. Crammer

            You can get done for Plagarism in College if you submit the same essay twice or sections of one essay word for word within another piece of your own work. Even if the question/assignment is the exact same.

      3. realPolithick

        Nope, plagirism is taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. Taking your own work and passing it off as your own is fortunately not illegal and hopefully never will be. :)

  14. David

    Terrible film, boring and childish. Just like its director. I’m so sick of this guy at this stage.

  15. dylad

    to quote the director…’should you…watch…Charlie Casonova… I don’t f*****ng think so’

  16. D4man

    Forget DVD release stage … This pathetic attempt at move making should go straight to radio !!!!! And for the director … perhaps a check out job at tesco ????

  17. Kim V

    Hey, Broadsheet- Donald Clarke in fact said he’s rather drink caustic soda than sit through the film again. Not that he’d rather drink c.s. than be seen to endorse it. I don’t actually think DC cared terribly deeply that his words were used out of context. (Or maybe I’m wrong.) I felt he was just writing an article about how misleading clipped-out journalists’ words can be, and about how sneaky/dodgy film promotion can be.

    Terry’s a lovely guy (based on one meeting) and I really liked the film. It’s deeply imperfect, but great in lots of ways. And very gutsy, as was the process of making it. I think his response to Donald C was horrendously misjudged though. He reduced himself from ‘controversial maverick’ to ‘loony’ in one click. Damn. Apple & zed!! Apple & zed!!!

    1. Kim V

      I went to a Q&A with the director and I was really super impressed, both by what he’d been able to accomplish on no money and by the kind of moxie of the whole thing. It’s a good film. I’m glad it exists. This squabble is beneath him.

      1. Kim V

        I also didn’t think the use of the DC quote was a misrepresentation!! It’s an ambiguous line, that feel intriguing. What’s wrong with that?

      2. Crammer

        Are you talking about the Q and A after the opening in the Lighthouse last week in which he ranted and waffled more than the character in the film himself? Social commentary and thought provoking this film is not, and the director even less so.

  18. Joey

    What does “ruling class” even mean? I keep seeing it mentioned in the promo blurb. The main character seems no different to any other well-off middle class individual. Some of whom are nice and others arseholes. That’s life. Director obviously has no clue about class distinction. Ruling class my arse.

  19. Alex Fegan

    DC said that the film was “a pretty jaw dropping piece of work.” That was the quote used on the buses. What’s the problem?

    Whether he likes the film or not is not the point. His jaw dropped when he watched the film. Most films are boring, banal, forgettable and do not invoke the slightest emotional or physical reaction. Most films would not even stir your bottom lip never mind cause your entire jaw to drop. His review and the quote extracted therefrom implies that the film caused a veteran reviewer’s jaw to drop. Now that’s a film I want to see, whether DC ultimately liked the film or not. It’s a small bit like the Antichrist. You may hate the film, but your review may still cause me to go see it because, as implied in your review, the film provokes a response.

    In addition, every single piece of publicity and comment on this film has clearly said, as far as I can gather, that the film’s aim is to cause the very reaction DC stated the film had on him. Therefore, since he called the film “a pretty jaw dropping piece of work,” who in their right mind would not use this quote as part of their publicity. The Irish Times is after all the so called paper of record.

    The point is DC was absolutely mistaken to say or imply that there was any “misrepresentation” on the part of the Charlie Casanova marketing team. The words he used were the words quoted and whether they were meant as good or bad in his review (which is debatable by the way) is not the point. The point, as mentioned, is that the film stirred a response!!!

    Now before you say I must be the director’s friend or brother or long lost cousin, I’m not. Although I did meet him once and he came across as a fairly pleasant fellow. I do happen to be a fellow filmmaker but that’s neither here nor there. I haven’t seen the film yet and am merely giving my opinion on the matter of Saturday’s article in the Irish Times.

    Ultimately, I feel DC was mistaken to highlight Charlie Casanova while making his, no doubt, legitimate arguments on misrepresentation.

    Secondly, I feel the world would be a much more boring place without the likes of Terry McMahon, who not only spark debate with their films and the defense of them but on occasion cause the odd hack’s jaw to drop…..

    To Terry, I say well done and fair play.

  20. Quint

    I know Terry and he’s a lovely guy and he was kind enough to give me a rough-cut of the film. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it: it’s cheap-looking obviously, the characters are deeply unlikeable and the acting, apart from Emmett Scanlan who’s competent enough in the lead role, is dodgy. But at least it elicited an emotional reaction from me, is like no other Irish film you’ve seen and it stayed in my head for a few days afterwards, unlike 99% of films I’ve seen which I have forgotten about already as the end credits roll. At the very least, whether you hate it or love it, you won’t forget about it easily.

    1. Crammer

      wind that shakes the barley? in bruges? Once? The commitments? In the name of the father? The field? Bloody sunday? Hunger? NONE of these films evoked an emotional response in you? Honestly? Your words reads like an incredibly biased comment based on your relationship with the man.

  21. Lou_the_lou

    What’s up with the IFI film review booklet these days? Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress got a thumbs up and it’s was god awful. A frat boy asking if his eyes are blue why he doesn’t see everything with a blueish tinge… and other such profundities. Utter garbage.

    I wish they had a comments section on their website but I suppose it wouldn’t be good for business.

    1. nich

      The IFI booklet is more a brochure than a “review booklet”, the films are all summarised in a positive light purely to attract audiences and sell tickets. I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed any negative criticism in the magazine.

      1. Lou_the_lou

        Yeah I know but could they not tone it down a little for the abysmal ones.

        1. ThatChick

          You’re right. An arthouse cinema with financial difficulties should stop trying to present films in a positive light to get customers interested.

          You saw a bad film. Stop baww-ing. The IFI didn’t dupe you into anything.

          1. Pedanto, The Hilarity Man

            Does it have serious financial difficulties? I thought it was doing pretty well.

  22. Langers

    I watched 20 minutes. I got a screener of it a while back. I have to say I thought it was atrocious. Embarrassing really. Ah well, fair play to them for making it and getting it out there. It’s what arts all about really.

  23. DU3M4N J!E

    Now I have to watch it…

    I still think it’s prob gonna be the best 1000 euro spent on a rough cut of any Irish feature in 10 years.

    Hopefully that’s not the only good thing about it…

  24. Turk

    The movie is a stunning piece of work. Not what an Irish audience would be comfortable with. Especially the more D4 types who seem to have invaded this page with repeated attacks on the director. But that’s no shock considering the subject of the film. I’ve seen the film and was gob smacked at the level of bravery. When I watched it I thought he’s gonna face some back lash for this. Conservative Ireland won’t react kindly to this. I never thought it would be so venomous. I read Clarks firsat review and I honestly can’t see how he claims the line “Jaw dropping work” can be interpreted negatively. Sounds like the first line of infantry have been sent out, with Clark holding the flag in the charge to demand irish cinema remains in the hand’s of elites. The same people who have been selling us of glorified board failte promos for way too long.

    1. Irish Film Bored

      I agree with you. It amazes me that Clarke can’t let us judge for ourselves why his jaw dropped, rather than distract us with all that “context”. Next he’ll claim that “preposterous” and “quasi-philosophical waffle” weren’t meant as praise, despite the fact that they were right there in the next sentence.

      Damn that D4 army. Wrecking our movies with their flags and their hatred of courage.

    2. Crammer

      THis is one of the funniest comments ive read in a long time. Funny bad, just in case you take that out of context.

      1. Turk

        I have to laugh at you little keyboard worriors typing away with mouth foaming glee. Funny little hitler youth types you are. Anything or anybody who says anything other than regurgitated conservative bullshit must be attacked. Of course it’s not attacked openly like that poor Michael McDowell imitation Donald Clark. But by his little army of yes men who lets face it wouldn’t have the balls to face the filmmaker and say this shit. So it’s get brave online time. Funny little girls.

        1. Bucko

          “regurgitated conservative bullshit” lol, the only one regurgitating bullshit is Mc Mahon. Exact same patter in every interview, banal schoolboy observations. Maverick me hole! Thick fool more like….

        2. Crammer

          As opposed to your sorry ass taking the most generic anti establishment approach you can? I was at the opening in the lighthouse and did in fact say I didnt like the film to his face and ask him if he saw any of the main character in himself in the Q and A afterwards. Critically voicing an opinion on the film that differs from yours and happens to be in the (vast) majority because its plain to see is not ‘regurgitated conservative bullshit’. Just because you can take the minority doesnt mean you always should. This film is genuinely shite-not because it evokes emotion or goes against norms (which it doesnt) but because its poorly made, acted and produced.

  25. Lands

    I’ve only watched the trailer and I’ve a question for people who have seen it, is it any different to the Dice Man? Besides the cards? Because it looks exactly like the Dice Man with cards.

  26. Paul Byrne

    Charlie Casanova is basically The Son Of Taffin. Only not as funny as that Brosnan shouting fest. And it’s a film that certainly doesn’t deserve to have any kind of storm surrounding it – even a shit storm like this.
    Ultimately, there is nothing to be gained by these threads. What’s the point of trying to figure out what the bull ate, when we all know what came out the other end…?

  27. Andy Moore

    Having only heard + read Terry’s point of view & having read numerous Donald Clarke articles, I would have to be on Terrys side . Deal the next ace from the deck

  28. Obvo

    Why’d he give him a tache if he’s meant to be in the ruling class? He looks like a young Harry Molloy.

    1. Joey

      Because the lead actor had contractual obligations to “Hollyoaks” – This movie is taking no prisoners.

  29. Delilah

    I’ve seen this film numerous times and I believe it is a powerful debut. Innovative and ahead of its time. My understanding is that although it follows a three act structure it uses Brechtian technique to give the audience objectivity in order to enable them to see the political message of the film. Audiences have become used to being spoonfed their plots with each mouthful of popcorn and maybe that’s the problem here. There is certainly a need and place for that kind of entertainment but I feel there is a place for Charlie too. The director made an extraordinary film in extraordinary circumstances, I’m sure all he wants is to find an audience for his work. Love it or hate it, it deserves just that, to be seen. I’m appalled at the level of personal attacks above, the director is human folks, you don’t like his film, that’s fine but that’s all it is, a film, why make it so personal?

    1. Joey

      I admit i haven’t seen the film, but i think the controversy was directed at quotes being taken out of context etc…. If this was the case then basically someone, be it the distributors or whoever put the marketing together, would have conned (working class??) people out of their hard earned cash.
      Vive la Revolution.

      1. Delilah

        Donald Clarke said the film was “a pretty jawdropping piece of work” how is that out of context? If he hated it so much, why not just say that in the first place?

        1. joey

          Granted he did say that, but you could hardly say DC’s article was an endorsement of the film. Generally people take promotional posters as adverts to draw you in, and so by quoting that line, implied that it was positive. It couldn’t be further from the intended meaning. That’s a con in my book. I was interested in seeing the film before this came to light – i am suspicious of the people behind it now.

          1. Delilah

            Suspicious of what? And of what people behind it? The distributors? It’s debatable whether Donald meant it as a positive or negative. It seems to have been the distributors who used the quote and you can see why they would if it appeared ambiguous to them, makes sense to use it to promote the film. That’s a marketing strategy which has nothing to do with the making of the film or its journey towards a cinema release. Why penalise the cast and crew over a piece of advertising? In the original article Donald says, “it turns out to be a pretty jaw-dropping piece of work” followed by “the actors are pretty good” and “the glossy, tech work is up to scratch” then says he didn’t like the dialogue and gets progressively more negative. So in that context the earlier phrase follwed by a couple of positive statements could well be viewed as a positive.

          2. Joey

            Ok if you see DC’s article as positive then good for you – you’ll certainly be able to see much more in the film then i am capable of seeing.

          3. Joey

            ..actually i take that back – you are right. Just read the original review – it’s not as clean cut as i first thought. If i was a film maker i would have used that line. I’d say it was evenly balanced between praise and complaint. TM does have a point when he said DC was hedging his bets – he certainly doesn’t pan the film as he implied he did with his second article. Will catch it when it comes to DVD. Cheers

    2. Pedanto, the Hilarity Man

      Having seen it a few times, can you answer a question that really puzzled me. What happened the picture cards? He keeps saying draw ace to five for X, six to ten for Y – but no-one ever asks the obvious question.

      Is it an oversight? Was a scene cut out?

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