Poitín was the recipient of the first script grant from the newly-formed Arts Council. The legitimacy that such a grant might bestow was quickly dispelled when Poitín was completed in time to be aired on St. Patrick's ...展开Day, 1979. The Irish public was outraged, and calls to ban the film rang out. The reasons for this kind of agitation are not hard to see: Quinn's tale of a hermetic distiller paints a picture of the West of Ireland utterly opposed to conventional romantic notions of the area (he notes, in Film Ireland, that he made the film as a response to The Quiet Man). Quinn here seeks to expose the elements of the Celtic identity that are most unappealing to the bourgeois/Europeanised sector of Irish society. However, Quinn goes out of his way to avoid romanticising this existence, showing it to be defined by alienation and frustration.
The story focuses around Poitín, an incredibly strong Irish liquor (roughly equivalent, culturally and alcoholically, to moonshine). Cyril Cusack plays an old distiller who lives on the Connemara islands with his grown daughter (Mairéad Ní Conghaile) and employs two outcasts to sell the stuff. When a bunch of the liquor entrusted to the selling agents is seized by the police, the two steal it back and sell it off, getting drunk on the proceeds. When they get thrown out of the pub where they had been sloshing themselves all night, they make for the distiller's house in search of yet more liquor. They generally abuse Cusack's character and attempt to rape his daughter, but he has the last, dark laugh when he convinces them to row out into the middle of the water outside his house in a leaky boat.
The film does strikes a blow for Irish nationalism in the way that Quinn insists on privileging the perspective of the marginalized, all in the name of showing us what its like to live in 'the real Ireland', which is how he identifies the Western Shore. Again a critique of modernity is implicit: it is the police, the only representatives of 'respectable' society in the entire film, who initiate all this trouble. It ends up that the poitín maker has his own mechanisms to deal with these treacherous employees, and this eventually works quite well. The society that Quinn evokes is harsh and frequently violent, but it is a distinct, fully functioning one not recognising the laws of 'civilized' Ireland. Martin McCloone ironically notes that "Poitín offer a deliberately unromantic view of the West of Ireland which, in cultural nationalism, was the repository of all those Gaelic, rural values which were to be the basis of Ireland's anti-modernist utopia". Quinn certainly repudiates the romanticism attached to those 'Gaelic, rural values', but what this film is about is recognition that such values exist and continue to exist, not just in the way imagined by mainstream representation. The film ceratinly does not celebrate this rural way of life, but it does insist on its accurate representation, and in so doing validates it in a way that no romantic tale of man against nature ever could.
Poitín has been digitally remastered and a new 35mm print produced by Framestore in London and Windmill lane in Dublin. A music score has been composed by Bill Whelan (composer of Riverdance). Originally there was no music used in the film - apart from one brief interjection of Arabic music from a radio.