And roll away the reel world, the
reel world, the reel world!


The Brazen Head Volta: Joycean Film & Video

Note: This section is slated to be restored by Spring 2023. Until then, most of the links go directly to YouTube. As the Brazen Head creates its own pages for these films, they will be announced on the “What’s New?” page.

This section of The Brazen Head explores films related to Joyce, from cinematic adaptations of his work to documentaries about his life.

James Joyce was fascinated by the world of film. In 1909, with the aid of some professionals from Trieste, he opened the Volta, the first cinema in Dublin. Later in life he discussed the filming of Ulysses with the great Sergei Eisenstein, and even contended that certain episodes of Finnegans Wake could be adapted to the screen. Indeed, he often incorporated cinematic techniques into his narrative, including flashbacks, montages, and dissolving scenes.

But despite this, there’s a distinct lack of films based on Joyce’s oeuvre. The characteristics which make Joyce’s writing so revolutionary are the exact things which sabotage attempts to translate them to cinema, and Ulysses and Finnegans Wake especially have been called “unfilmable.” But what some consider an impossibility, others consider a challenge, and a few intrepid filmmakers have indeed made the effort.

The works below are organized by category: Adaptations, Joyce-Related Films, Documentaries, Documentary Shorts, Features on Bloomsday, and Miscellaneous. This page does not collect or annotate films that simply contain Joycean quotations, or films that critics have labeled “Joycean.” Not does it include videos made for Joycean reading groups or classes. There’s just far too many of these videos on YouTube, and they come and go like Wandering Rocks!


Adaptations

These films are adaptations of Joyce’s fiction. Each will eventually have its own feature page here at the Brazen Head.

Passages from Finnegans Wake (1965)
A surreal series of montages adapted from Finnegans Wake. [YouTube]

Ulysses (1967)
Joseph Strick’s controversial, modern-day setting of Ulysses. [YouTube]

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1979)
Joseph Strick’s film of Joyce’s first novel. A Brazilian bootleg is available online, with Portuguese subtitles. [YouTube]

The Dead (1987)
John Huston’s final film is the only Joycean adaptation garner widespread critical acclaim. Adapted from the last story in Dubliners, The Dead stars Donal McCann and Angelica Huston and Gabriel and Gretta Conroy. [YouTube]

Bloom [a.k.a., “bl,.m”] (2003)
Stephen Rea stars as Leopold Bloom in Sean Walsh’s cinematic version of Ulysses. This movie was originally given the unfortunate title bl,.m, but it seems cooler heads have prevailed, and is now apparently retitled Bloom. [YouTube]

Ulysses | Film (2020)
Commissioned by the Museum of Literature Ireland, this hour-long film by Alan Gilsenan uses photographs, video, and music to illuminate readings from all 18 episodes of Ulysses. This link takes you directly to the MoLI page, where you can watch the entire film. [Offsite]


Joyce-Related Films

The following films focus on the biography of James Joyce, or have been inspired by James Joyce.

James Joyce’s Women (1985)
Fionulla Flannagan plays an array of “Joyce’s women,” real and fictional. [YouTube]

Nora (1999)
A biopic of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, adapted from Brenda Maddox’s book, Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom. This link takes you directly to YouTube, where you can watch a montage of “best scenes.” [YouTube]

A Shout from the Streets (2000)
A short indie film inspired by Ulysses.

Pitch ‘n’ Putt with Beckett ‘n’ Joyce (2001)
A three-minute Irish short, Beckett and Joyce play miniature golf while awaiting W.B. Yeats. [YouTube]


Documentaries

The following documentaries are 30-minutes or longer in length.

Ten Great Writers, Vol. 7: James Joyce (1987)
This interesting documentary uses actors to dramatize sections of Ulysses, while Anthony Burgess and Clive Hart explain the novel’s structurer and significance. [YouTube]

James Joyce’s Dublin (1989)
Sponsored by Aer Lingus, Antony Sellers’ documentary features numerous interviews with Irish Joyceans, including the actress Fionnula Flanagan. [YouTube]

The Scandal of Ulysses (1990)
Bruce Arnold’s film about the tortured publishing history of Ulysses, filmed at the 1990 James Joyce Symposium in Monaco. [YouTube]

Famous Author Series: James Joyce (1996)
An educational video about Joyce. [Offsite]

James Joyce: The Trials of Ulysses (2000)
This documentary details Joyce’s struggle with writing the book and its troubled publishing history. [Offsite]

Bloomsday Cabaret (2004)
A documentary on Joyce and his love of music. [Offsite]

James Joyce Documentary (2006)
An untitled, hour-long documentary on Joyce, apparently produced by “Academy Media.” Few other details are available. [YouTube]


Documentary Shorts

The following documentaries are under a half-hour, and were mostly produced for the Internet. None of these shorts has a Brazen Head page devoted to them; clicking a title takes you directly to the short.

James Joyce’s Dublin, 1904 (1968)
Directed by Kieran Hickey and narrated by Jack MacGowran, this 10-minute film uses contemporary photographs and musical queues to bring Joyce’s Dublin to life.  [YouTube]

James Joyce: Reluctant Groom (2020)
Directed by Sé Merry Doyle for the Irish Cultural Centre Hammersmith, this documentary “presents the extraordinary story of how after living together for almost three decades James Joyce married Nora Barnacle in London on 4 July 1931.” [YouTube]


Bloomsday

The following documentaries are about Bloomsday celebrations around the world. None of these features has a Brazen Head page devoted to them; clicking a title takes you directly to the short.

Joyce to the World (2004)
A brief clip about Bloomsday. [YouTube]


Miscellaneous: Interviews, Lectures, Tours

None of these features has a Brazen Head page devoted to them; clicking a title takes you directly to the video.

Interview with Sylvia Beach (1962)
Interviewed in Ireland during the opening of the James Joyce Museum at the Martello tower, the inestimable Sylvia Beach reflects on Joyce, Hemingway, and the publication of Ulysses. [YouTube]

Anthony Burgess: Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake (1973)
Joyce scholar and novelist Anthony Burgess discusses Finnegans Wake—with photos, music, and props! [YouTube]

Terence McKenna: “Surfing Finnegans Wake” (1995)
In 1995, the psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna gave a lecture about Finnegans Wake at the McEsalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Unsurprisingly, McKenna focuses on the “psychedelic” and “apocalyptic” aspects of the Wake, which may be interesting to the sort of people who find McKenna interesting! While his pre-millennium perspective of Joyce as “the great sampler” is insightful, McKenna’s lecture is marred by numerous biographical errors about Joyce and a some careless mistakes about the Wake itself. [YouTube]

James Joyce’s Dublin: The Ulysses Tour (2007)
Terence Killeen narrates a two-hour exploration of Joyce’s Dublin. (This is a “liberated” DVD once for sale in Ireland.) [YouTube]

Will Self & John Banville Discuss Dubliners (2014)
“On June 15th, 2014, Will Self and John Banville joined Carlo Gébler in the stunning surrounds of the James Joyce Centre’s Kenmare Room to talk Dubliners. What followed was a funny, animated and intensely interesting discussion about Joyce’s most accessible book.” [YouTube]

James Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake (2014)
Created by “Monocle Electronical,” this strangely-affecting animation places Joyce’s 1929 recording of him reading Finnegans Wake directly into the mouth of his famous bust in Stephens Green, Dublin. The subtitles are a nice touch! [YouTube]

100 Years Later: What Happened After Ulysses Was Published? (2022)
“James Joyce scholar and reading guide, Jesse Meyers, discusses Joyce’s life, literary modernism, the creation of Ulysses, and its impact on literature, the law, the publishing industry, libraries, art, and music.” [YouTube]


Additional Information

IMDB Joyce Page — This page on the Internet Movie Database links to all entries involving James Joyce.


Author: Allen B. Ruch
Last Modified: 26 October 2022
Main Joyce Page: The Brazen Head
Contact: quail(at)shipwrecklibrary(dot)com

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