Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bloomsday and Ys

Stupidly, I had forgotten that yesterday was Bloomsday. Perhaps it still is in Dublin so it’s not too late to celebrate.

I was happy to be reminded of it by this IIML tweet:
Georges Perec reworks Ulysses for Bloomsday - "fl my brasts all prfume ys and his hart was going lik mad and ys I said ys I will Ys."
You will recall that Perec (large claims made for him here) wrote a whole novel, sorry, whol novl, without using the letter e (La Disparition, translated into English by Gilbert Adair as A Void). Ys, obviously: why? And: is it hardr in Frnch? Still, that explains the famous last sentence of James Joyce’s Ulysses Perec-ised above. Probably not by Perec himself, who died in 1982. Probably by a clever-clogs at IIML.

But I was unhappy to be reminded of Ys, the 2006 album of “new folk” by harpist/singer Joanna Newsom which was praised to the skies by music reviewers all over the world. You know, the people who get their music for free. I like the Incredible String Band as much as anyone (i.e. more than anyone reading this) so I don’t mind shapeless and tuneless caterwauling and only five songs on one CD but, boy, there are limits.

Anyway, the pic above is from the Joseph Strick 1967 film adaptation of Ulysses, with Barbara Jefford as Molly Bloom and Milo O’Shea as Leopold. Younger readers will not believe this but it is for true: audiences in New Zealand were segregated:
[. . . ] mainly because the film contained one use of the word “fuck”. This had been enough to ban it in Australia where films could not be restricted by age (eg, R18) like they could in New Zealand.

In 1967 the film Ulysses reached the New Zealand film censor. Douglas McIntosh, the Chief Film Censor, screened it to two test audiences, one made up of church representatives (all men) and the other made up of married couples. While the first group recommended an R18 or Restricted to Film Societies classification, the second felt it could only be shown to segregated (split) audiences aged 18 years and over.

The Film Censor followed the second group’s recommendation and men and women were separated during screenings. He stated that some of the dialogue in the film would cause embarrassment in “mixed company”. In smaller theatres this meant a rope was put down the middle of the cinema. In larger theatres the aisle separated men and women, or one group sat upstairs and the other downstairs.
Yep, that’s how I saw it in the Maidment Theatre at Auckland University in, I suppose, 1971: women to the left, men to the right and a rope down the middle in between. Those were the days, and those days were rubbish.


bk drinkwater said...

On Newsom, I humbly dissent. I didn't feel Ys to be such a great album: more like one great track followed by four lesser efforts. I paid for my copy.

Regarding Perec: that some guy (Gilbert Adair, google tells me) translated A Void into English—keeping the no-E limitation—just boggles my mind.

Anonymous said...

I was among the Wellington audience for Ulysses. It was in two separate movie theatres. I have to say there was ribaldry, coarseness and roaring cheers of approval during Molly's soliloquy. It brings me sadness to report this, but there was a similar reaction, although with a different emphasis amongst the gentler sex, corralled as they were across the road. The events of later that evening, along with the end of six o clock closing, were condemned by the vicar at the Miramar Anglican Church as the moment the 'Devil was finally through the door.' Some low types were heard muttering, and before the service was over, 'about bloody time too'. Oddly enough some of these quickly ceased to be among the faithful.


Stephen Stratford said...

Anonymous, when you sign your posts as "Denis", you are not, like, totally, anonymous.

Was it really six o'clock closing then? Yet another aspect of our lives that the young ones are clueless about.

Chad Taylor said...

A movie that appealed equally to male and female audiences? How quaint.

Lew said...

I, too, must strenuously object to your characterisation of Ys. But it does take a hell of a lot of listening to get much out of.

For the love of all that's mellifluous, if that wasn't your cup of tea, stay far away from Have One On Me. It's three disks of similar, but without the plush arrangements or much of the melodic immediacy.


Spitfire said...

Oh, Ulysses (the movie)! Watched it in a 'women only' session at a cinema in Palmerston North.

Yes, it was embarrassing at times to have some things one thought, at that time, were much more private. Mollie's soliloquy made sudden sense on screen after puzzling over it on the page.

Gen Ys don't seem to have any boundaries about sex that my generation had, and Ulysses went some way to removing them. It does mean they can't enjoy the movie or the novel in quite the same way.

cf Chad Taylor - the movie appealed to men and women equally, but in quite different ways. And at quite different places in the movie.

You had to be there!

Stephen Stratford said...

BK and Lew - OK I will try again with Ys. Promise.

Spitfire, I love the "Gen Ys". Perfect in this context. Perhaps BK and Lew are Gen Ys?

And yes, the film must be such a different experience now. I have younger (i.e. in their 40s) friends who can't see why the Beatles are/were a big deal. I say to them, I understand why you don't like them - I am not a devotee - but you have NO IDEA (I shout) what a difference they made. Watching Ulysses now must be as baffling as watching Help!.

Graeme Lay said...

In 1987 I had dinner with Milo O’Shea, who was visiting Auckland: he is a friend of a friend.

Milo was, as you would expect, excellent company. A quietly amusing and unexpectedly modest Irishman.

He also played Friar Laurence in the wonderful Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet (1968).

When I told Milo that I had been infatuated with the actress who played Juliet, the gorgeously nubile Olivia Hussey, Milo (who had kept in touch with both his star-crossed colleagues – Leonard Whiting played Romeo), Milo disclosed that ‘Olivia has grown enormously fat, and Leonard has gone completely bald.’

For some reason I found this information reassuring.

Lew said...

Stephen, I'm an X, according to the common use of such distinctions, but Drinkwayer is squarely a Y. But since he seems to like the album much less than I do, I'm not sure what conclusion this dataset of three yields.

I must confess failing to finish Ulysses on three occasions. Commence to mocking, if you will.


Stephen Stratford said...

"Dataset"? Lew, I do believe that you too are mathematically inclined. Though not as much, perhaps, as BK.

No mocking re Ulysses. I've read it twice and the first time was a real grind. Ironman stuff. The second time, I got it - it's really funny and it was a pleasure. But boy, you have to earn it.