Rhythm and Lights (1934) by Mary Ellen Bute

Sunday, January 20, 1985, 8:00 pm

A Tribute to Mary Ellen Bute


800 Chestnut Street

San Francisco, CA, 94133

Passages From Finnegans Wake (1963-67), 97 min., b&wRhythm and Lights (1934), 5 min., b&w; Escape (1937), 4½  min., color; Mood Contrast (1953), 7 min., color

Mary Ellen Bute was a trailblazing figure in the early development of independent film in America. One of the first women to enter the world of cinema art, her animated color films of the ‘30s share with Oscar Fischinger’s a playful enjoyment of light and movement, coupled to the rhythms of the soundtrack. With her death in 1984, the film-art community lost one of the few remaining links to its early growth.

In Passages From Finnegans Wake, Bute took selections from Joyce’s monumental opus and translated them into flesh and blood. Always faithful to the text, she used a full range of film techniques to portray the dream-like qualities of this modern classic. “The film’s central achievement is that it touches myth, touches our old friend the collective unconscious… it is in tune with the work it is about.” – Stanley Kauffmann, The American Review