7 p.m. Sunday, February 28, 2016
53 Wall Street Auditorium
Introduction by Brian Meacham and Bute biographer Kit Basquin
Film Notes by Brian Meacham

Directed by Mary Ellen Bute (1965) 93 mins
Screenplay by Mary Ellen Bute and Mary Manning, adapted from the book by James Joyce
Associate production and cinematography by Ted Nemeth
Original score by Elliot Kaplan
A production of Expanding Cinema

Distributed by Grove Press Film Division
Starring Martin J. Kelley, Jane Reilly, Page Johnson, and John V. Kelleher

“By and large, the film achieves the innermost effect of the great dream novel… what redeems it far past its faults is the very strong sense of Miss Bute’s vision: her loving perception of the novel and her response to it in cinematic imagination.” — Stanley Kauffman

Director Mary Ellen Bute’s 1965 film PASSAGES FROM JAMES JOYCE’S FINNEGANS WAKE, called by Time magazine “as challenging and witty as Joyce’s prose,” was the first feature film adapted from the work of James Joyce (1882-1941). The film was the result of the creative partnership between director Mary Ellen Bute, alumna of the Yale School of Drama, and her husband, cinematographer Ted Nemeth. The film screened at Cannes and at various festivals in the United States, and was distributed by Grove Press, but by the 1980s, it had become difficult to see the film in its original 35mm format.

Bute passed away in 1983. In December 1985, Donald Crafton, then director of the Yale Film Study Center, accepted a donation of film elements and paper materials from the family. The paper and photographs in the donation now comprise the Mary Ellen Bute Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The film materials at the Film Study Center, now known as the Mary Ellen Bute Collection, include 35mm and 16mm prints and negatives of much of Bute’s well-known early abstract animation, 35mm pre-print picture and audio elements of her two live action films (including PASSAGES), and various production elements on the two incomplete film projects she had been working on at the time of her death. When it became clear that the collection included good condition, unique original elements for the film, PASSAGES FROM JAMES JOYCE’S FINNEGANS WAKE was selected as the first major film preservation project undertaken by the Yale Film Study Center.

In the spring of 2009, the Film Study Center was awarded a grant by the National Film Preservation Foundation, a congressionally-funded non-profit that supports film preservation in the United States, to make new 35mm preservation and screening elements for this film, to bring it back into circulation in a way that as matched as closely as possible its original 35mm release.

The source materials utilized for the preservation of the film were ten reels of 35mm composite fine grain master (a high quality combined picture and sound element intended for duplication) and three reels of subtitles for reels 8 - 10. Only the final three reels of subtitles existed in the collection, so as part of the preservation process, seven new reels of subtitles were created, based on subtitles as they appeared in extant 16mm prints, to be printed with reels 1 - 7. A new preservation negative and a new optical soundtrack negative were made from the fine grain master, and were combined with the existing and newly created subtitle reels to make a complete, subtitled restoration print. The project was completed in 2011, and the newly restored print screened at archives and festivals around the country.

DID YOU KNOW: Bute hoped to make more films based on Joyce's novel. When she completed this film, she told an interviewer, "Now that I've finished this I'm crazy to get back to Joyce and make another film from Finnegans Wake. This is only about one part of it, and of course there are many other stories and themes... It's like the Bible, there are so many stories in it."

35mm print preserved by the Yale Film Archive with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation

Presented in the Treasures from the Yale Film Archive series with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

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Monday, April 10, 2023 - 2:04pm