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Finnegan's Wake was the first attempt to cinematize the works of Irish author James Joyce. Based more on a stage adaptation by Mary Manning than the Joyce novel itself, the film concentrates on Dublin pubkeeper Finnegan (Martin J. Kelly), who while in the throes of inebriation has a vision of his own death.
As the bemused Finnegan lies in his coffin, his friends gather for his wake. The corpse tries to cut through the keening and platitudes by probing the innermost thoughts of those closest to him.
The surprising aspect of Finnegan's Wake is that so much of its difficult text works on screen--a tribute to the loving care of scripter/director/ editor Mary Ellen Bute, who while preparing this film spent her waking hours picking the brains and burrowing through the resource materials of the James Joyce Society.