James Joyce fans know that June 16 is Bloomsday, the single day in which all of his seminal novel "Ulysses" takes place. But as the video above reveals in its first seconds, not everyone is a James Joyce fan.
It's the trailer for the documentary "Get in Bed with Ulysses," which is screening this Bloomsday at several Southern California locations. The film -- made by Joyce fans Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna -- is a fascinating, human look at the author and "Ulysses," his most famous novel.
Adelson knows the text in a way that's visceral, not too heavy on the academic. He staged a New York performance in which in which a number of talented actors -- including Kathleen Chalfant doing Molly Bloom -- brought "Ulysses" to life on stage. Not an interpretation of the novel as a play -- a reading of the text itself.
The movie starts by framing Joyce, who can be simultaneously Ireland's most famous author, literature's most significant modernist, and a guy who your average Dubliner doesn't know.
After what threatens to be too significant a detour into the stage performance, the movie opens up into a vital telling of Joyce's life, focusing on "Ulysses," filled with archival photos, discussions of its censorship controversy and visits to the places in the text. There's even a film clip of Joyce and his wife Nora walking together on a city street.
Like many biographies, this one connects Joyce's work and life, but in this case it's an extremely valid and rich comparison. Joyce's wife, Nora Barnacle, was the real-life model for Molly Bloom -- at least, much of her earthiness and difficulty was.
Their romance and relationship, financial troubles and periods of profligacy, inform the very intellectual "Ulysses." Adelson often returns to passages in the text to contrast with events in Joyce's life, or illuminate the distance between his intellectual leaps and concerns of the everyday -- including the difficulties getting the book published in America, which had strict censorship laws.
While many contemporary authors and thinkers appear in the film, the most consistent and welcome presence is Colum McCann. The Irish-born writer, who won America's 2009 National Book Award for "Let the Great World Spin," ties together the art of "Ulysses" with Joyce's unequaled legacy and imperfect life. If only the filmmakers had enlisted him as narrator.
People who are curious about "Ulysses" but know nothing at all about it should be warned that this film does include the final lines of the book. Not that it's much of a spoiler -- many who haven't finished the book already know Molly Bloom's speech at its end.
The film screens at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Laemmle Theaters: The Royal in Westwood, the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, the Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, the NoHo 7 and the Claremont 5.
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