IFI’s Monthly Must-See Cinema showcases highlights from the Irish cinema canon which are now preserved in the IFI Irish film Archive.
Our Must-See choice this month is something of an oddity: an American film with a screen play by Mary Manning and directed by Mary Ellen Bute, a pioneer in abstract and animated filmmaking who was drawn late in her career as an artist to create her only feature film – an adaptation of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (via Mary Manning’s stage play).
Rather than attempt to distil the entire novel (as others later attempted with varying degrees of success with Ulysses) the film selects a series of passages from the book and illustrates then almost literally. Bute’s technique is to create a dream-like film style, employing conventional camera styles at times but also animation and abstract film clips and a dazzling array of allusions – 1950s dance crazes, atomic weaponry, and television shows – to create a cinematic approximation of the subconscious and the novel’s nearly impenetrable structure.
Passages from Finnegans Wake represents the first attempt to adapt a work of James Joyce as a feature film and was honoured as best debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965.
The screening will be introduced by Joyce scholar Dr Nicholas Miller of Loyola University Maryland.