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||IMDB Rating: 6.5/10 from 616 votes
||Release: 25 April 1968 (Netherlands) /
||Director: Joseph Strick,
||Stars: Anna Manahan, Barbara Jefford, Chris Curran, David Kelly, Desmond Perry, Eddie Golden, Fionnula Flanagan, Geoffrey Golden, Graham Lines, Maire Hastings, Martin Dempsey, Maurice Roëves, Milo O'Shea, Rosaleen Linehan, T.P. McKenna
||Synopsis: Dublin; June 16, 1904. Stephen Dedalus, who fancies himself as a poet, embarks on a day of wandering about the city during which he finds friendship and a father figure in Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jew. Meanwhile, Bloom's day, illuminated by a funeral and an evening of drinking and revelry that stirs paternal feelings toward Stephen, ends with a rapprochement with Molly, his earthy wife. Written by <[email protected]>
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Watch Ulysses - Alternative Versions.
To adapt the words of some venerable Austrian nuns, how do you solve a
problem like 'Ulysses'? Considered by most to be the greatest book of the
20th century, it is also, notoriously, one of its most difficult. How do
you film a book where each character exists in a narrative set on 16 June,
1904, but also corresponds parodically to Greek mythology. Where each
chapter is a parody, pastiche, interrogation of a whole host of literary
styles and conventions, where almost every line is an allusion, crucially
mutated, to literature, theology, philosophy, history etc. Where each
character, event, setting, is subject to rigorous verbal deconstruction, so
that they can seem to dissolve in front of our eyes, and put back in
playfully different combinations; or where whole episodes evolve from word
games. Where each setting is rich in historical significance, providing a
meta-narrative to all the squabbling narratives that comprise
Take, for example, the episode 'Proteus', where Stephen Dedalus walks on
beach. In the book, his mixture of observation and thought creates an
unsettling, difficult text, where what he sees and what he thinks meld
indistinguishably into one another, and the reader risks getting lost,
as he is in the flux of Stephen's head, not guided by an impartial
We travel in fragments, on a Dublin beach, through the centuries, from
Elsinore to the Renaissance to Paris, from literature and politics to
memory, all the while doused in vast philosophical imponderables. Strick
shows us a young man walking on a beach chased by a dog to the bathetic
recitation of the novel's words. On paper, the dog inspires a number of
puns, including colonialism, intellectual slavery and man's mortality.
it's just a dog. The words are full of soundbites such as 'ineluctable
modality of the visible', phrases that have to be gone over, worked out,
understood, necessitating maybe even a dictionary. To have them sped read
seems self-defeating, unless you know the book, and if you are only making
film for people who've read the book, than what's the point?
Strick films the formal landmine of 'Ulysses' with a studied focus on
narrative. He avoids structural rupture, or any attempt to translate the
novel's techniques, many borrowed from cinema, into film. A true 'Ulysses'
would require someone with fiendish formal daring, a massive intellect, a
sense of history and place, but also someone with a love of stories,
resonant sentimentality, and popular culture, and, especially, a taste for
farce. Godard of the 60s, maybe, or Richard Lester. Or some unholy
of Welles, Huston and Gerald Thomas.
ULYSSES is redundant, full of scenes slavishly recreated with dialogue
spouted verbatim, but arbitrarily selected so that they make no sense. It
might have been an idea to take a couple of digestible narrative lines and
create a film around them, but Strick wants to get everything, and, in a
standard feature film, can only give a few minutes to each episode, which
makes a nonsense of them. Even on this level, his filming is fizzleless,
flat, cautious, as if what is said in 'Ulysses' is crucial, when, of
it's how it's said that counts. The crucial dichotomy of the novel,
Stephen's intellectualism and Bloom's corporeality, is fudged, and the
triangle between Stephen (man), Bloom (womanly man) and Molly (woman) only
comes about by pilfering the book's structure.
This is the accepted view of the film, and it is theoretically accurate.
makes the film sound inept, which, as Joyce, it may be, but it is very
entertaining. Milo O'Shea is an incomparable Bloom, transcending the
leaving cert level script, capturing this hero's multifaceted humanity in
all its inglorious glory, his decency and desire, his tragedy and sense of
exclusion (the mirroring of virulent racism in Bloom's time with our own
more sophisticated age is chilling), and his peerless good humour.
He is supported by an extraordinary cast, many of whom are familiar from TV
or theatre, and anyone who is not Irish will completely miss the frisson of
seeing Dinny Byrne as a cheeky Lothario, on a birthday-suited pedestal, or,
most alarming of all, Mrs. Cadogon as a leather-booted, whip-wielding
Madame. Barbara Jefford is an extraordinary Molly Bloom, that hothouse
flower spending the day in bed, voluptuously ordinary; her soliloquy is one
of the best things in the film - it completely bypasses Joyce's intentions,
but in its mixture of voiceover and silent, literal imagery it achieves a
dreamlike power reminiscent of Perec/Queysanne's later UN HOMME QUI DORT.
There is great humour throughout, usually courtesy of Bloom, my favourite
being his entry into a cafe of uncommonly audible munchers; the Nightown
sequence, though again a travesty, is great fun, more Nabokov or Flann
O'Brien in its Carrollian topsy-turvy, even if you wish, as did John Devitt
who introduced the film, that it had been magicked by Fellini.
This was a Bloomsday treat at the Irish Film Centre. And the print itself
was of historic interest, in that it was a censored one from the 1960s.
Instead of cutting offending scenes, the sound was simply turned down,
signalled by an amusing warning noise, or the picture being blacked out.
Luckily I have the video (and the book!) so I went to check what I'd
which wasn't very much, some innuendo, a few choice epithets and Molly's
orgasmic face. The decisions behind the censoring were erratic, as some
scenes left intact seemed more fruity than some of the victims. In a film
based on words, this vandalism, interrupting especially a soliloquy of
snowballing impact, made me increasingly furious, and reminded me that
relative liberalisation in this country after decades of Franco-like
repression, was not all that distantly achieved.
There was real pleasure, as a Dubliner, though, in seeing the city of my
parents in clean monochrome - due presumably to budgetary constrictions,
Strick made no attempt to recreate turn-of-the-century Dublin, making
another evasion of Joyce, but achieving something pleasantly different none
the less. And as I could never have hoped, Martin Dempsey is perfect as my
favourite Joycean character, Simon Dedalus, like all his friends
mean-minded, selfish, dreadful, but capable of great humour, and in his
recitation of a heartmeltingly sad melody, emotional beauty.
Tags for Ulysses Full Movie
, Barbara Jefford
, Chris Curran
, David Kelly
, Desmond Perry
, Eddie Golden
, Fionnula Flanagan
, Geoffrey Golden
, Graham Lines
, Maire Hastings
, Martin Dempsey
, Maurice Roëves
, Milo O'Shea
, Rosaleen Linehan
, T.P. McKenna
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