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Are you waiting for the release of Finnegans Wake in movie form before you tackle reading James Joyce’s magnum opus? Or perhaps you were hoping to avoid reading it all together by watching a film on or about the book?

As luck would have it, this year’s Bloomsday Festival Montréal 2017 will screen Shem the Penman Sings Again, based on a playful and original interpretation of Finnegans Wake at 7:00 p.m on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at the De Sève Cinema, Concordia University.

A creation of Director Pádraig Trehy and co-writer Peter McCarthy, Shem the Penman Sings Again intelligently and artistically approaches Finnegans Wake obliquely through the actual and fabled friendship between James Joyce and the extraordinary, renowned tenor, John McCormack. The character of Shaun the Post in Finnegans Wake was inspired by McCormack who first met Joyce in 1904, whereas Joyce portrays himself as his lowly twin brother, Shem. Trehy also perceives a twinning between the singing of McCormack and the physicality of dictating the book by Joyce. In struggling to write with increasing blindness, Joyce essentially performed the text for his various secretaries such as Samuel Beckett.

Incorporating early cinematic styles and featuring a sound track of real and imaginary audio recordings in an attempt to capture the dream aspect of Finnegans Wake, Trehy explores the juxtaposition of emotion in music conveyed by McCormack and the perceived impenetrability of Joyce’s writing. He considers that the idea of performance, audience and lack of audience, are central to the film.

Noting that Joyce famously founded Dublin’s first movie house and considered a career as a professional singer himself, Irish Times reporter Donald Clarke subtitled his film review ‘When James Met John’ and suggests the work of Pádraig Trehy is reminiscent of the Canadian film genius Guy Maddin.

Screened at the Bloomsday Festival in Dublin last year as part of its Joyce on Film component, this will be the Montreal première of Shem the Penman Sings Again for a limited engagement of one night only. Register here. Tuesday, June 13, 7pm.

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