In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_yt5dlcibqyodlcomqy76z3vwj6e

Birdman

One of the best times you'll have at the movies this year, and possibly the year's best film overall.

Thumb_large_fqswmulnnx3zirvlso5sxv9zcn

Rudderless

If this directorial outing was in any sense an audition for the talented Mr. Macy, he should be congratulated on passing it.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Finnegan's Wake

  |  

"Finnegan's Wake" didn't particularly appeal to me, but the fault may have been mine and not the film's. I haven't read the novel by James Joyce (it has crouched there on the shelf these many years, pointing its accusing spine at me), and I suspect a knowledge of the book would enrich the film experience. This was not the case with Joseph Strick's "Ulysses," which communicated directly as a movie, rather than depending on a familiarity with Joyce. (Still, I have read "Ulysses," so perhaps I'm biased in the other direction on that one.) Mary Ellen Bute's film, of "Finnegan's Wake" is more directly a "treatment," almost a literal illustration of passages from the novel.

Her method is interesting. The novel is the record of an epic night's journey through the dreams and semiconscious waking mind of H. C. Earwicker (Finnegan). His language is the dream language of puns, snatches of song, bursts of conversation and bits of interior monologue. It is uniquely suited to the printed page, where the puns and subtly altered spellings can be seen but not heard.

When the book is read aloud, however, you hear some of the puns but entirely miss others. Miss Bute has solved this problem by having her actors "peak the lines while subtitles provide a 'simultaneous record of the actual Joyce language.

This business of subtitling films already in English is an interesting one, allowing the use of dialects that might not otherwise be understood by most audiences. In "Sparrows Can't Sing," Joan Littlewood used thick Cockney dialect on her sound track, then provided Subtitles for American audiences.

Some of Miss Bute's visual translations of Joyce are genuinely amusing, and some of her techniques are interesting experiments. She mostly uses a conventional camera style, but occasionally switches to animation, to the manipulation of drawings and paintings in front of the camera, to double exposure and to old film clips run forward, backward and upside down. This suggests the complexity of the subconscious (which, I gather, is one big double exposure up there in your head anyway).

Friends who have read "Finnegans Wake" tell me they enjoyed the film very much. I enjoyed it in a sense; I could appreciate what was happening even if I didn't always understand it. It is an essential film for readers of Joyce and an interesting film for the rest of its, and it will probably never be on the late show. Although, in a sense, it is the late show.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

NYFF 2014: Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”

A review of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" from the 2014 New York Film Festival.

Interview: Cary Elwes on the Lasting Power of “The Princess Bride”

An interview with Cary Elwes about "The Princess Bride."

That brilliant laugh: Elizabeth Pena, 1961-2014

An appreciation of Elizabeth Pena.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus