While Cineprobe was primarily a platform for premiering new films, its flexible, adventurous nature resulted in occasional tributes to historical titles, as with a 1983 showing of Mary Ellen Bute’s moody 1965 Passages from Finnegans Wake just months before her passing. The first and only feature based on James Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, Passages is, in the filmmaker’s estimation, less an adaptation than a rejoinder to Joyce. Wildly inventive and fearlessly associative, in a fitting echo of its source material, Passages also captures the state of film as an art form at midcentury. Kenneth Goldsmith’s UbuWeb pronounces Passages “a weirdly post–New Wave rediscovery of Surrealism [whose] panoply of allusion–1950s dance crazes, atomic weaponry, ICBMs, and television…[finds] a cinematic approximation of the novel’s nearly impenetrable vertically compressed structure.” Like the 1983 Cineprobe event, this presentation also features Bute’s groundbreaking abstract animation.
Abstronic. 1952. USA. Directed by Mary Ellen Bute. Music by Aaron Copland, Don Gillis. 16mm. 7 min.
Passages from Finnegans Wake. 1965. USA. Directed by Mary Ellen Bute. Based on the play by Mary Manning, from the work by James Joyce. With Page Johnson, Martin J. Kelly, Jane Reilly, Peter Haskell. Score by Elliot Kaplan. 35mm. 90 min.