Joyce On Film
The Triskel Arts Centre presents a series of James Joyce’s work, as told through the eyes of several generations of filmmakers. With adaptations of his work ranging in scale from the sumptuous to the surreal, it shall certainly be an event worth partaking in for newcomers and scholars alike.
James Joyce was not just fan of words, but of cinema, going as far to found one of the first picture houses in the country; The Volta, in 1909. Strangely enough, Joyce had a penchant for popular comedy (something he would later bond with a young Samuel Beckett over) and his acerbic sense of humour certainly permeates his literary work alongside the more commonly celebrated linguistic playfulness, which has come to serve as his trademark.
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Adapting Joyce’s prose into cinema form is an unenviable and ambitious task; one which is fraught with, not only the usual difficulties of transforming the intimate act of reading into the public act of film, but also, in Joyce’s case, facing the inevitable judgement (and occasional wrath) of academics and purists alike.
Some filmmakers have emphasised the playful elements of Joyce’s writing in their adaptations, while others focus on the earnestness, the sexuality or the inherent Irishness of his novels. These individualistic approaches have left a unique and fascinating body of work which highlights the subjectivity of prose, as well as the will of the filmmakers who dared to detract from the page.
Slavish renditions of the great works of Joyce would be both cinematically impossible, and not altogether very entertaining. As much of the joy in reading Joyce comes from the wit, the hidden jokes and the bawdiness, as stems from the classical references, historical and political nods and thematic richness.
Joseph Strick, whose adaptations of Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man were made a decade apart (in 1967 and 1977 respectively), bravely attempted to cast a filmmaker’s eye upon the most literary pair of works the twentieth century had seen to date. Whilst his Ulysses dealt with the prurient and farcical elements of Joyce’s source material, Portrait was a somewhat more stoic affair. Both have many merits, but were received poorly on an almost unanimous level. Looking back at them half a century later, it becomes clear that both are transgressive pieces on their own merit; a hybrid of influences filtered through a visionary’s lens.
One of the great auteurs, John Huston’s final film (released in 1987) was The Dead, itself adapted from the final story in Joyce’s The Dubliners. A haunted masterpiece of a movie, elegant and beautiful, it stands as a testament to the power of Huston as a director and the strength of Joyce as storyteller.
2003’s Bloom sought to examine the passion and fire which existed at the heart of Joyce; one fuelled by his own tumultuous relationship with Galway woman Nora Barnacle, with whom he bore two children. It was lambasted at the time, but once the furore settled, a tender heart was to be found within it.
Cork native Pádraig Trehy shocked the arthouses this past year when he released Shem The Penman Sings Again; a film which succeeds by not attempting to recreate Joyce, but to capture his spirit. This black and white, largely silent film manages to elevate the material to new and exciting levels, ironically using many of the forms and tropes at which Joyce himself would have marvelled in the cinema, over a century ago.
The Joyce on Film at the Triskel Arts Centre series examines the highlights; some of the most important cinematic offerings from those who were brave enough to tackle the complex and sometimes oblique author. The event runs from the 12th-16th June, 2016.
A talk by writer and journalist Colin McCracken will also be held on Bloomsday to coincide with the Shem The Penman screening.
Sun 12th Jun @ 3.45pm + 8.30pm
132 mins – United Kingdom/United States 1967 – Dir: Joseph Strick
Starring: Milo O’Shea, Barbara Jefford and Maurice Roëves
Stephen Dedalus embarks on a day of wandering about the city during which he finds friendship and a father figure in Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jew in this once controversial cinematic adaptation. Book Tickets »
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man NC
Mon 13th Jun @ 3.45pm + 8.30pm
92 mins – Ireland 1977 – Dir: Joseph Strick
Starring: Bosco Hogan, T.P. McKenna and John Gielgud
Stephen Dedalus is a young man struggling with the various crises of youth, lack of money and burning sexuality. Frustrated by conventional women, he seeks out the company of prostitutes.
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The Dead NC
Tue 14th Jun @ 3.45pm + 8.30pm
83 mins – UK | Ireland | USA 1987 – Dir: John Huston
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Donal McCann and Dan O’Herlihy
Based on the short story from Joyce’s Dubliners, John Huston’s final film stars Anjelica Huston as Gretta, a country girl who has moved to the city of Dublin and married wealthy socialite Gabriel.
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Wed 15th Jun @ 3.45pm + 8.30pm
113 mins – Ireland 2003 – Dir: Sean Walsh
Starring: Stephen Rea, Angeline Ball and Hugh O’Conor
On the morning of June 16th 1904, Leopard Bloom set out on a journey that was to become of the greatest tales of the 20th Century. Bloom is an enthralling story of Love, Loss and Lust.
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Shem The Penman 12A
Thu 16th Jun @ 3.45pm + 8.30pm
80 mins – Ireland 2015 – Dir: Padraig Trehy
Starring: Frank Prendergast, Louis Lovett and Hugh O’Conor
Using multiple storylines, both real and imaginary, this film deals with the much fabled friendship of the world-renowned writer James Joyce and the extraordinary tenor John McCormack.
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