Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reading Roger Ebert's tribute to James Joyce and John Huston on the anniversary of Joyce's death

James Joyce died on this date in 1941, which Rogert Ebert commemorates with a Twitter link to one of his reviews.
My Great Movie review of John Huston's "The Dead."
The perhaps unintentional double meaning of "great" is appropriate. It is a great movie and a great Ebert review. He rightly calls "The Dead" one of the greatest short stories in the language, and one that he long thought unfilmable. The story is about people's words and thoughts. It's about love and loss and death. Ebert reflects on the story's famous final paragraph.
In his final pages, Joyce enters the mind of Gabriel, who thinks about the dead boy, about his wife's first great love, about how he has never felt a love like that, about those who have died, and about how all the rest of us will die as well -- die, with our loves and lusts, our hopes and regrets, our plans and secrets, all dead.

Read with me James Joyce's last paragraph:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
"The Dead" was filmed early in 1987 by John Huston, who knew he was dying. The Academy Award-nominated screenplay was by his son Tony, who served as his father's assistant on the film, and his daughter Anjelica played a central role in the film. He died before the movie opened in December, and it became his cinematic epitaph. Ebert's review beautifully evokes what makes both the story and the film it inspired great, and he concludes with these elegiac lines:
Gabriel is the witness to it all. An early shot shows the back of his head, regarding everyone in the room. Later he will see his wife, finally, as the person she really is and always has been. And he will see himself, with his ambitions as a journalist, the bright light of his family, the pride of his aunts, as a paltry fellow resting on unworthy accomplishments. Did these thoughts go through John Huston's mind as he chose his last film and directed it? How could they not? And if all those sad things were true, then he could at least communicate them with grace and poetry, in a film as quiet and forgiving as the falling snow.
Read the entire review here.

1 comment:

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

One of the most memorable films Huston ever did. And I can't count how many times I've read Ebert's review of it. Thanks for the other Ebert post as I've always thought Roger's reviews were such a joy to read: elegant, informative and always putting the film and the stories in a broader cinematic/literary/ historical context. I rarely saw the films, but never missed his reviews.