Fasten your seatbelts for Joyce and Bette

Fasten your seatbelts for Joyce and Bette A scene from the film Adam and Paul (2004).

The Irish Film Institute is commemorating Bloomsday (June 16) this year with a showing of the film Adam and Paul, Lenny Abraham’s debut.

It’s an interesting choice as it has no Joycean overtones. The echoes come from the peripatetic wanderings of the central characters (two drug addicts played by Tom Murphy and Mark O’Halloran – who also wrote the screenplay) which resemble those of Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus.

The film has a kind of grim humour, parts of it presciently prefiguring attitudes towards immigration which are afflicting Ireland today.

The curtain-raiser for this is Kelly Campbell’s short feature An Encounter, an adaptation of one of Joyce’s stories from Dubliners, again written by O’Halloran.

On June 15, the IFI is showing Kino Volta, a quasi-documentary about the embryology of Joyce’s managership of the Volta cinema in Mary Street in 1909. It’s hard to get one’s head around the idea of Joyce as a cinema manager but he was indeed one, albeit only briefly. The film has him trying to sell the idea to four entrepreneurs in Trieste, where he was then living.

The IFI also has a Bette Davis season this month. June 15 showcases one of her greatest films, Now, Voyager, also starring Paul Henreid. The film has the famous scene where Henreid lights two cigarettes simultaneously and gives one to her, causing her to exult, “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars.”

The Davis season continues with an equally powerful performance from her in All About Eve, which gave many people their first sight of Marilyn Monroe. Davis’ character was said to have been based on the irrepressible Tallulah Bankhead; she denied this. It had her iconic line, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” – delivered in that unmistakeable rasp that seemed like the legacy of a thousand cigarettes.

Also in the Davis season is Another Man’s Poison (June 18), A Pocketful of Miracles (June 20) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (June 22). Her career was on the ropes when she made the latter film. She revived it with a tour de force performance. Though yet only 54, she looked ten years older.

Davis was the Meryl Streep of her time, an actress unconcerned about her appearance, unlike her co-star Joan Crawford who was terrified of ‘uglifying’ herself –  which probably explains her absence from its ‘sort of’ sequel (Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte) – she walked off the picture after a week.

On June 28 you can see Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece, Network. This won a posthumous Oscar for Peter Finch. It has a particular resonance for me as it was the first film I reviewed professionally – for want of a better term. I’d been doing so for university magazines beforehand but only as a hobby.

Little did I know as I sat in my seat in the Savoy that day in 1976 that we’d still be talking about this landmark work almost half a century on.