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Roll Away the Reel World: James Joyce and Cinema
Roll Away the Reel World: James Joyce and Cinema

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Authors: John McCourt
Affiliation: Université  Roma
Publication Year: Hardback 19 October 2010
Pages: 262
Size: 234 x 156mm

ISBN: 9781859184714


Traces Joyce's involvement in early modern cinema, his thematic and formal borrowing from this genre, and the impact of his writings on later avant-garde and mainstream cinema ranging from Godard to Rossellini to Scorsese.

Written by an international group of leading Joyce and film studies scholars, the first section of the book provides a revealing account of the writer's central involvement in 1909-10 in setting up the Volta cinema, the first specifically-designated cinematic space opened in Dublin.

The main body of the book traces aesthetic and structural links between Joyce and film, offering chapters on the birth of modern cinema as seen from Joyce's position in Trieste, a surprising vibrant 'capital'ť of cinema, examining the impact on Joyce of early film makers such as the Lumiͨre brothers, Cretinetti, and Meliͨs, and assessing the influence of Joyce's writings on contemporary film directors. The presence of Joyce's Ulysses is traced in films such as American Beauty (Mendes, 1999) and The Departed (Scorsese, 2006) while various film treatments of Joyce's work – such as John Huston's The Dead – are also analysed.

Introduction: From the real to the reel and back: explorations into Joyce and cinema
John McCourt

James Joyce and the Volta Programme by Luke McKernan; Dedalus Among the Film Folk: Joyce and the Cinema Volta by Erik Schneider; Joyce, Early Cinema and the Erotics of Everyday Life by Katherine Mullin; The Ghost Walks: Joyce and the Spectres of Silent Cinema by Maria DiBattista; Mirages in the Lampglow: Joyce's 'Circe' and Méliͨs' Dream Cinema by Philip Sicker; Futurist Music Hall and Cinema by Carla Marengo Vaglio; Circe's Costume Changes: Bloom, Fregoli and Early Cinema by Marco Camerani; 'See Ourselves as Others See Us': Cinematic Seeing and Being in Ulysses by Cleo Hanaway; JJ/JLG Louis Armand; Tracing Joyce: 'The Dead' in Huston and Rossellini by Kevin Barry; Odysseys of Sound and Image: 'Cinematicity' and the Ulysses Adaptations by Keith Williams; James Joyce, Subliminal Screenwriter? by Jesse Meyers; Appendix : Volta Filmography by Luke McKernan

John McCourt Ph.D Lecturer in English literature, UniversitÍ Roma Tre; Director, Trieste Joyce School Trieste and is author of The Years of Bloom Joyce in Trieste 1904-1920 (2000)

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5 of 5 In the early 2000s Cork University Press launched December 16, 2011
Reviewer: Margot Norris Irish Studies Review from Republic of Ireland  
In the early 2000s  Cork University Press launched a series of small books in collaboration  with the Irish Film Institute to explore  Irish  films defined as movies made in  or about   Ireland. This volume on Joyce and cinema is an ambitious echo of that project  although its  immediate impetus was actually a conference held in Trieste  Italy  in January 2009 in  connection with the Annual Trieste Film Festival. Indeed  as John McCourt s   Introduction  explains  Joyce s interest in film is grounded historically in a connection  between Dublin and Trieste  between Ireland and Italy. There was no exclusive movie  theatre in Dublin when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle moved to Trieste in 1904. The  popularity of film there later inspired the writer to launch an ill fated enterprise  backed by  Italian investors  to open a movie house  the Volta Theatre  on Mary Street in Dublin. It is  this biographical experience and its historical context that shapes the opening studies in  Part I of this fascinating book. Part II turns to the varied influence of early cinema on  Joyce s thematic interests and stylistic techniques. Part III focuses on cinematic  adaptations of Joyce s fiction and on Joyce s influence on modern film makers. Taken  together  the essays in the volume offer a treasure trove of comprehensive research and  sophisticated discussion on the important role of this aspect of popular culture in Joyce s  history  work  and influence.    The two essays that comprise Part I split the story of Joyce s Volta Theatre project   with Luke McKernan describing its operation and programming in Dublin  and Erik  Schneider researching the Triestine impetus that prompted Joyce s Italian partners to  support the project. This material is intriguing not only as background to an important  moment in the Joyce biography but also for its vivid evocation of the nature of early  twentieth century cinema in general. Part II offers six essays by Katherine Mullen  Maria  DiBattista  Philip Sicker  Carla Marengo Vaglio  Marco Camerani  and Cleo Hanaway.  Mullen traces a series of early  actualities    ostensibly films of everyday life   with  moments of exposure of female ankles and legs of the kind that fascinate Bloom on  Sandymount Strand and elsewhere in Ulysses. In contrast to  actualities   DiBattista and  Sicker look at early cinema s ability to present ghosts  magic tricks  illusions  and other  phantasmagoric effects particularly memorable in the films of Georges Me lie s. These  cinematic transgressions of reality are reflective of the theatrical effects in the  Circe   episode. Camerani s essay also looks at  Circe   but specifically relates the costume  changes in that episode to the shows of an Italian quick change artist named Leopoldo  Fregoli  whose name appears in Joyce s  Circe  note sheets. Carla Marengo Vaglia relates  clownish and theatrical effects in Ulysses   and particularly in  Wandering Rocks    to  the music hall antics celebrated by Marinetti and other futurists. And in the last essay of  Part II  Cleo Hanaway returns to the voyeuristic penchant of the  actualities  discussed  earlier  but now examines the larger phenomenology of seeing and being seen through the  philosophical lens of Merleau Ponty in three episodes:  Nausicaa    Circe   and   Wandering Rocks .    Part III  focused on films inspired by Joyce s work and on his influence on filmmakers   consists of four essays by Louis Armand  Kevin Barry  Keith Williams  and Jesse  Meyers. John McCourt s  Introduction  does point out in a footnote  206  that not all of the  film adaptations of Joyce s works are considered here  with Joseph Strick s adaptation of  Portrait and the brilliant Mary Ellen Bute s foray into Finnegans Wake notably omitted. In  the first essay Louis Armand discusses the legendary film maker Sergei Eisenstein  who  visited Joyce in Paris in 1929 and referred to Joyce frequently in his subsequent writings.  Yet Armand argues that it is not Eisenstein but rather Jean Luc Godard whose  sophisticated understanding and use of montage may more faithfully have cited Joyce s  inventions if not in direct allusion  then nonetheless in his art. Kevin Berry turns to two  other film directors  Roberto Rossellini and John Huston  to explore their very different  ways of revisiting Joyce s  The Dead  in their films. Once again Joyce is repositioned in  Italy  by Rossellini s Voyage to Italy whose protagonists are named Mr and Mrs Joyce  and  in Ireland by Huston  who became an Irish citizen before the end of his life and used  Joyce s story to redress negative images of Ireland. Keith Williams offers a relatively  straightforward comparison of the cinematic strategies used to address Joyce s literary  experiments in the 1967 black and white film adaptation of Ulysses by Joseph Strick  and  the 2003 version in colour by Sean Walsh  titled Bloom. In the end  Williams considers  Werner Nekes  film Uliisses the most avant garde cinematic response to Joyce s Ulysses.  The final essay by Jesse Meyers   James Joyce  Subliminal Screenwriter?   offers a list of  films with allusions to Joyce before focusing on Mel Brooks  1968 The Producers  Sam  Mendes  1999 American Beauty  and Martin Scorsese s 2006 The Departed. Some  references to Joyce and his work are explicit in these works   the accountant Leo Bloom  in The Producers  for example   while those in the Mendes and Scorsese films tend to be  largely coded. But they nonetheless persuade Meyers that Joyce is the  originating  screenwriter  in each of these films  185 .  The book ends with an appendix and a bibliography that round out the valuable  research and information this volume offers. Luke McKernan s  Volta Filmography   provides a list of the films that were shown at the Dublin Volta Theatre between December  1909 and April 1910   the period of Joyce s involvement with the management there. The  listing includes the dates of available reviews of the films in the British trade paper The  Bioscope  as well as the archives where some of the films may be found. The bibliography  offers a compendium of extant research on Joyce s relation to cinema and on early film in  general. This caps the marvellous research and analysis that make this the most exciting  work on Joyce and cinema to date.

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5 of 5 IT has often been noted that James Joyce s only si September 6, 2011
Reviewer: Bernard O Donoghue Notes and Queries from Republic of Ireland  
IT has often been noted that James Joyce s only significant return to Dublin after he left it for good was in 1909 when he attempted to run a Volta cinema there as a kind of by product of the astonishingly prolific film showing world in Trieste where Joyce was living at the time  there were twenty one cinemas in Trieste by 1909  only fourteen years after the Lumi res? start of the industry . Joyce s hope was that he could establish a happy arrangement whereby he could return to Dublin for two months every summer for a kind of paid vacation  escaping the Italian damn silly sun that turns men into butter. The venture had foundered by April 1910  leaving Joyce feeling embittered and impoverished  neither a rare condition in him  and determined never to return to Ireland. But of course it casts a different light on Joyce s grand  artistic self imposed exile; if the Volta enterprise had worked out  he would have cheerfully returned to Dublin every year or at least that was the plan.    This intriguing episode  and Joyce s general relations with cinematic matters in his writing  have their ideal chronicler in the editor here  John McCourt who is the principal authority on Joyce in Trieste on the basis of his greatly admired 2000 book The Years of Bloom: Joyce in Trieste 1904 1920. This new book takes its Wake derived title from a conference which was one of a series of anniversary events in Trieste in 2009  including an exhibition about cinema there in Joyce s time  curated by Eric Schneider who has a chapter in the book on Joyce s collaborators on the Volta project  and a film retrospective  mounted by the admirable Elisabetta d Erme  featuring several of the short films shown in Dublin by Joyce. Of course many of them have not survived: this book ends with a Volta Filmography by Luke McKernan a list of all the films shown at the Volta between December 1909 and mid April 1910.  The fetching title had already proved too good to resist  in Austin Briggs s essay on Circe and Cinema in the 1989 Beja Benstock essay collection.     McCourt s riveting and well conceived book is made up of three sections; the first  after the editor s lively and elegant  introduction  is made up of two short essays by Schneider on Joyce s collaborators  following McKernan s account of the project s history.      The second section has six essays on the most crucial and interesting matter the reflection of cinematic techniques and themes in Joyce s writings  linked to McKernan s wondering whether he would have been drawn by subject matter or technique. One answer to this is given by Louis Armand in his essay on Jean Luc Godard  the first of the four pieces in the third section which deals with ways that modern film makers have drawn on Joyce. Armand suggests it is both subject matter and technique: that Joyce and Godard are the two major inventors of the modern vernacular  artistic creators who  like Homer  give us a world in a particular wholeness; a wholeness that exceeds the conventions of literature and cinema.    It is striking and unsurprising that the texts of Joyce that are most discussed here include two of the chapters of Ulysses  Circe and Wandering Rocks  which are made most difficult by a shifting of consciousness  something which is described aptly in terms of the cinematic. As a crude indication of their centrality drawn from the Index here  Circe occurs on forty six pages and Wandering Rocks on eighteen. For comparison  Finnegans Wake occurs on fourteen.      Nausicaa is the next commonest subject with twelve  largely because of Katherine Mullin s excellent essay on the cinematic nature of the chapter s Erotics. Cleo Hanaway s chapter on Nausicaa is also fascinating  arguing that Ulysses is better read retrospectively in terms of Merleau Ponty s Phenomenology than in Benjaminian terms.    Hanaway s argument that the chapter is a parody of voyeurism rather than the thing itself is intriguing  if not wholly persuasive. Other readings of Ulysses here are equally compelling. Carla Marengo Vaglio examines Wandering Rocks in the light of Futurist Music Hall and Cinema both things for which Joyce had huge enthusiasm and in relation to Futurism s call that cinema should be a joyful deformation of the universe. Her description of the adventurous juxtaposition of genres and styles in Futurist cinema and music hall fits perfectly Joyce s chapter s representation of the two complementary poles of the abstract and the concrete. She takes as an example Leopoldo Fregoli  the quick change artist whose changes of dress and appearance were an end in themselves rather than part of a narrative  and he is the central parallel in the following  totally convincing chapter by Marco Camerani on Circe s Costume Changes.    The most immediately accessible chapters are comparisons of cinematic versions of Joyce texts: Kevin Barry s consideration of the two versions of The Dead  by Rossellini in 1953 as Voyage in Italy  and by John Huston under the story s own name in 1987; and Keith Williams s exploration of the two major films based on Ulysses: again  one under its own title  by Joseph Strick in 1967  and Sean Walsh s ambitious and lurid film Bloom in 2003. The most compelling possibility Sergei Eisenstein s repeated declaration of his wish to use Joyce s experimental novel as the perfect text for a film maker anxious to resist the backward drag into naturalism threatened by the emergence of the soundtrack sadly remained only a possibility  perhaps because of the impossibility of Soviet state backing for such an effete venture. Barry concludes that Rossellini s film which left the debt to The Dead  unacknowledged wrestled the story back to Italy where it was written in the first place  while Huston s great black and white film was an eastern western  one of Huston s own stories of male failure and social unease: a brilliant suggestion.    What this book demonstrates most illuminatingly is that criticism has often been looking in the wrong place in trying to locate the modernism of Ulysses in particular. We are reminded of Beckett s observation about Finnegans Wake that it is not about something: it is that thing itself. The form that the most technically challenging sections of Ulysses take is better seen in the context of cinematic futurism than in the history of the realist novel: it is not possible to extricate in McKernan s terms the matter of Circe from its technique. This book will remain an indispensible reminder of that  fact: a major contribution to the understanding of Joyce.

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5 of 5 ONE WOULD BE forgiven for feeling that the famous January 4, 2011
Reviewer: Terence Killeen James Joyce Centre Irish Times from Republic of Ireland  
ONE WOULD BE forgiven for feeling that the famous image of Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses has been rather overexposed on book covers  but there is a very valid and very obvious reason for placing it on the cover of a book devoted to Joyce s connection with the cinema. This volume is the product of a conference on the topic held in Trieste early last year. Trieste is of course a very appropriate place to host such a forum: it is likely that Joyce s own first experience of the cinema took place there  given the dearth of cinema in his native Dublin. Later  in 1909  Joyce was instrumental in bringing cinema to Ireland  opening and briefly managing what was possibly the first dedicated cinema in Dublin  the Volta.    It is fitting that Joyce should have been involved in the promotion of film in his life  for its relevance to his work could not be more clear. The Nighttown episode of Ulysses   though presented as a kind of drama  is obviously totally cinematic in its technique  with its quick dissolves from one scene to another  the absence of distinction between fantasy and reality  and the use of montage throughout  as has been noted long ago. And the first chapter of Finnegans Wake carries the same procedure even further  an endlessly rippling  wave like text that swoops above and goes close up at will.    In this technique Joyce is developing a key aspect of modernism  which as a movement and a method is hugely influenced by cinematic techniques. Several of the essays in this volume explore this matter from different perspectives  some factual  others more theoretical. Carla Marengo Vaglio and Marco Camerani discuss the effect of  Futurist Music Hall  and early Italian cinema  respectively  on Joyce s writing. The book as a whole is a thorough charting of Joyce s cinematic connections  beginning with a highly informative account of the early programming of the Volta cinema venture by Luke McKernan and continuing with a detailed account  the most detailed yet  of the entire Volta by that fine researcher Erik Schneider.    One direction of research here is  as mentioned  the influence of the cinema on Joyce; another  equally interesting one  is the influence of Joyce on the cinema  particularly in adaptations of his own work. Oddly enough  an oeuvre that is so emphatically cinematic does not always lend itself very well to the screen: both adaptations of Ulysses   that by Joseph Strick   Ulysses   1967  and that by Sean Walsh   Bloom   2003   are problematic in different ways. In this volume Keith Williams  while recognising the difficulties both directors faced  and acknowledging their achievements  points up some paths not taken  such as Joyce s own references  in the text  to early forms of cinema  such as the Mutoscope  which might have given a useful link between book and screen.    The one Joyce adaptation  which  it is generally agreed  is an unqualified success is of course John Huston s The Dead  1987 . This is a real masterwork  worthy of its mighty source. Kevin Barry  in this collection  performs a signal service by drawing attention to an earlier  version  of the story  Voyage in Italy  1953   directed by Roberto Rossellini. This film  which I have not seen  apparently takes many liberties with the text and in many ways transposes its terms into a different emotional register. Yet it remains tied to The Dead in more than just superficial ways. Barry also points up some of the particular slants that Huston himself put on his far more faithful adaptation. The essay testifies  as Barry says  to the ability of The Dead   as of any classic  perhaps  to be  transposable across cultures . Coming up to our own time  Louis Armand traces Joyce s considerable influence on a still contemporary film maker  Jean Luc Godard.    This collection is a thorough  in depth contribution to a topic that is often approached more sketchily  more theoretically  in the bad sense of the word. The only slight disappointment is the absence of a contribution from Elisabetta d Erme  who knows  at least  as much about this topic as anyone else  she is acknowledged as  the principal architect of the entire event  . Its title  Roll Away the Reel World  of course from Finnegans Wake    includes a reference to  rolls  of film  which are unrolled as a film is shown. This book also unrolls the fascinating  complicated relations between its two subjects.

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