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The Last Cinema Shem Review

“To mention James Joyce outside of literary or academic circles can be a dangerous affair. The likelihood of eliciting a reaction of disinterest or aversion is high, and not without reason. Joyce’s texts have a long-standing reputation for being notoriously oblique, filled with complexities and references which require a great deal of background knowledge to fully appreciate.”   Read Colin McCracken’s review of Shem for The Last Cinema   Read here Share this…

Film Ireland Interview with Pádraig Trehy

Sean Finnan talked to Pádraig Trehy about his film Shem The Penman Sings Again, which deals with the actual and much fabled friendship of James Joyce and John McCormack. The world-renowned writer and the extraordinary tenor first met in 1904 when Joyce still had hopes of becoming a professional singer himself. They reconnected in Paris in the 1920s and Joyce was to use his first-hand knowledge of McCormack to create the character of Shaun the Post in his famously ‘unreadable’ final novel, Finnegans Wake. As Joyce struggled with the book, he portrayed himself in it as Shaun’s lowly twin brother, Shem. Joyce’s twin obsessions, singing and literary experimentation, flow through the film as his and McCormack’s encounters are reimagined in a variety of early cinematic styles, interrupted by four short films-within-the-film charting the exploits of Shem and Shaun. As Joyce’s eyesight fails, the narrative is carried by a mix of archive recordings and imaginary radio broadcasts, giving us an emotional connection to an increasingly isolated Joyce.   What was it that caught your eye about the relationship between John McCormack and James Joyce? I was interested in both of them separately. The two of them have been a kind of constant in the background […]

Irish Times Donald Clarke Review, January 8th, 2016

Cinema’s interaction with James Joyce (who famously founded Dublin’s first movie house) has been erratic. Language is everything in the books. Yet film squirms under such logorrhoea. In his delightful, playful study of the relationship between Joyce and John McCormack (Louis Lovett), the great tenor Pádraig Trehy, sensibly, approaches the work – Finnegans Wake in particular – from an oblique angle. There are a fair few words in Shem the Penman Sings Again, but this is undeniably a full-on cinematic experience. Reminiscent of work by Guy Maddin, the great Canadian eccentric, Shem the Penman gestures towards silent film as it talks us through the careers of two very different talents. We get tight irises. We get some wonderful music – now avant garde, now sentimental – from John O’Brien. Hugh O’Conor, Frank Prendergast and Brian Fenton, playing Joyce at various stages of his life, offer performances that veer from the quietly naturalistic to the broadly pantomimic. The sound design, featuring fizzes and pops from an imaginary wireless, further presses home the experimental aesthetic. Now and then the film- makers give in to the greatest hits. Joyce really does point out that Ulysses will “Keep the academics busy for a century”. […]

Shem Review from Galway Film Fleadh Screening 2015

  Ahead of its screening in Galway’s Town Hall Theatre on January 19th next, here is Seán Crosson’s insightful Review from Shem’s premiere there at the Fleadh last July.   Read here   Share this…

‘Shem the Penman Sings Again’ Cork Film Festival Screening 13th November 2015

With just over 10 days passed since the Cork Premiere of Shem the Penman Sings Again, we have had a chance to calm down from the excitement of the Gala Screening in the Everyman Palace as part of this year’s 60th Cork Film Festival. We would like to thank everyone who was involved in making the screening possible and so memorable, especially all the wonderful staff of the Everyman Palace and the Cork Film Festival. The evening was, on several levels, a homecoming. A homecoming for film to the Everyman, which hadn’t been used as a cinema since 1988; a homecoming for it’s Director Pádraig Trehy and Producer Rossa Mullin, both from Cork and premiering their first feature film in their home-city; and finally for the film itself which was shot, in part, in the Everyman Theatre. We are very pleased to announce that Shem will be getting a limited Irish theatrical release in 2016 and therefore there will be opportunities in the coming months to see Shem the Penman Sings Again throughout the country on the big screen, with more details to be announced very soon! Share this…

Shem’s Cinema World

Shem’s Cinema World – Exploring the links between James Joyce and the Cinema

Shem the Penman Sings Again makes playful use of two of James Joyce’s excursions into the performing arts, which are almost entirely overshadowed by the scale of his literary reputation. In 1904, Joyce briefly entertained the idea of becoming a professional singer.

Dream Duet of James Joyce and John McCormack

Dream Duet of James Joyce and John McCormack

Cork filmmaker Pádraig Trehy used music to explore the friendship of two of Ireland’s great cultural figures, writes Richard Fitzpatrick in The Irish Examiner.