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Ulysses' Gaze
Ulysses' Gaze
Actors: Harvey Keitel, Maia Morgenstern, Erland Josephson, Thanasis Vengos, Giorgos Mihalakopoulos
Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     1999     2hr 56min

The Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, winner of the top prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for Eternity and a Day, will never build an audience of casual filmgoers. But then he doesn't mean to. Demanding, difficult, po...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Harvey Keitel, Maia Morgenstern, Erland Josephson, Thanasis Vengos, Giorgos Mihalakopoulos
Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Creators: Theodoros Angelopoulos, Amedeo Pagani, Dragan Ivanovic, Giorgio Silvagni, Homer, Petros Markaris, Tonino Guerra
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Letterboxed - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/11/1999
Original Release Date: 11/01/1997
Theatrical Release Date: 11/01/1997
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 2hr 56min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Patience, patience...
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 12/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"...and you'll be rewarded. Several of the reviewers below expressed problems with the pacing of this film -- one even went so far as to charge that Angelopoulos has created a 'pale imitation' of a Tarkovsky film with his long shots &c. While I could definitely see some parallels with Tarkovsky's work (the aforementioned long shots; the interplay between past & present, dream & reality; the non-linear progression of the story), I would hardly denigrate the director's efforts as a 'pale imitation'. I won't doubt for a moment that Angelopoulos admires and has been inspired by Tarkovsky's work -- but this is a director with his own vision, not one he has derived from the creativity of another artist.

The cinematography is breathtakingly stunning throughout -- and the long shots with which some viewers evidently find fault are in my opinion perfectly in tune with the flow and rhythm of the film. Too many people get used to the choppy, hurry-up-and-get-to-the-point techniques of Hollywood -- when something deeper, with more of an artistic foundation comes along, they have trouble relating to it. There are subtleties at work here -- masterful brushstrokes on film -- that must be taken in with an open, attentive mind. The small and the large combine into the cohesive whole that is this film -- sit back and let them do their work, don't try to guess where the film is going next or wonder how it's going to arrive there.

Keitel offers up a marvelously natural performance -- a review I read nailed it in part when it mentioned that Keitel doesn't so much 'deliver' his lines as become a vehicle for them. I got the feeling throughout the film that he was drawing his performance from a place very deep within himself, giving himself to it completely, allowing Angelopoulos' vision to animate his work. As a result, he is completely believable in his role as the exiled Greek filmmaker simply identified in the credits as 'A'.

Eleni Karaindrou's soundtrack (and the work of the great violist Kim Kashkashian in particular) complements the film perfectly. She has worked with Angelopoulos in the past, and continues to do so -- her music stands well on its own merit.

Not having seen this on the theatrical screen, I can't speak to the quality of the transfer -- and I must admit to having been disappointed by Fox-Lorber DVDs in the past -- but I thought the colour-drained look of many scenes in the film was perfect. Angelopoulos has stated that he 'feels' a film with all of his senses -- that translates into the exprience of viewing it as least for me.

Highly recommended.

European Fatalism
Sinan I. Karasu | SEATTLE, WA USA | 01/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For those of us who grew up in Europe or it's fringes, this is a beautiful and devastating movie. Almost any nation in europe has been either on the giving or the receiving end of opression, genocide or just plain betrayal,and in most cases,both. After countless centuries the final result is an overwhelming guilt with righteous indignation. Of course the unescapable result of this is, the fatalism most europeans seem to adopt. In the USA we do have the mistreatment of indigenous indians (or more curiously the denial of such), but not the feeling of guilt. We can dismiss such acts by laying the blame on the past generations. Europeans have no such luxury. They can only run bewildered , hopeless , directionless, with no possibility of a better tomorrow as the symbol of their last round of misfortune , obscenely floats down the river on a barge. The Lenin ( I am finding it hard just to capitalize his name) statue scene reminded me of a scene in a World War II movie I saw once ( I don't remember the name). In that the Allied forces going around the fields and playing a Bach piece on a gramophone to lure the Germans hiding in the bushes to come out and surrender. The scene left a great feeling of sadness and despair in me. How did the nation that produced a Bach ( and more ) ended up in such a sad , betrayed situation? Now that was obscene. European history is full of obscene things, that should never have happened. American history is not much different, but Americans have not come to grasp it yet. Wait another century and you will understand. Meanwhile try a little thought experiment. Imagine you are standing on the banks of Mississippi, and the man who got you fired, raped your family, took away your house, and got you thrown in jail, supressed your religious beliefs and opinions, is traveling down the river on a barge to become the governor of the state. How would you feel?Sinan"
The story that never ends.
Tintin | Winchester, MA USA | 07/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Up until 1995, all of Angelopoulos' films had for their subjects Greece, Greek history, and Greek myths. He continues somewhat with Ulysses' Gaze, but this time the filmmaker travels beyond the Greek borders into the neighboring Balkan countries. Except for the scenes taking place in Sarajevo, all the other scenes were filmed on location, in Albania, the Republic of Skopje, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Serbia. One must remember that at the time of the production (1994), the Balkan region was not exactly the safest place in the world. This enterprise represented some danger for Angelopoulos and his crew, and it would have been easier for the film to be shot in the safety of a studio, outside the areas of unrest. But Angelopoulos was not trained in the method of the Actor's Studio. More importantly, he believes that shooting in the actual locations of his stories enhances his sense of actually participating in the film itself, and therefore produces better outcomes. He therefore felt he had no choice but to chance it. For the Sarajevo episode, Angelopoulos was not able to get the necessary permission from the UN, so the Bosnian scenes were shot around Mostar, Vukovar, and in the Krijena region.

In Ulysses' Gaze, history is present, but contrary to his other film, The Travelling Players, where it was the theme, and the group of players rather than any individual character was the "star" of the film, in the present film, history is now relegated to the background, and since "A's" odyssey through the region is the main story, we see a more conventional character in the personage represented by Harvey Keitel (he is not named in the film, but he is known as "A" in the script), and also in the different characters who cross his path. However, the dialogues are often stylized, and this gives the actors, especially Keitel, a somewhat "mechanical" delivery, with the exception of Keitel's last monologue. This is in keeping with Angelopoulos' intent to occasionally distance his viewers from their emotional responses, forcing them to study and explore the identities of the characters. , The Romanian actress, Maia Morgenstern, plays the parts of the four women. These women can easily be identified with the women Homer's Ulysses came across during his voyage. They also represent all the women whom "A" had loved and lost in past. Gian Maria Volonté; who had been offered the role of Ivo Levy, died of a heart attack in Florina during the shooting of the film, and was replaced by Erland Josephson. Josephson is of course one of the main Bergman's actors, and his performance in his film is, as always, up to snuff. Angelopoulos actually dedicated Ulysses' Gaze to Gian Maria Volonté.

Giorgos Arvanitis, Angelopoulos's long time collaborator, is responsible for the stunning cinematography. Many of the scenes are long shots that are also long takes, lasting several minutes, Angelopoulos' undeniable signature. On several occasions, during some long takes, there is a shift in time, emphasizing history's continuity. The film's first scene, on the quay of Salonika, is particularly remarkable in its lyrical construction.

The music is by Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou. Her compositions for the cinema transcend the soundtrack's conventions. Her music does not merely accompany the story, it is an essential element of it. The score is a counterpoint to the cinematic action, and establishes an emotional climate, combining with the image to express what cannot be said in words.

Angelopoulos wrote the script with the collaboration of Tonino Guerra.

As the title of the film announces, Angelopoulos is taking us on a journey through the tumultuous Balkan region and on a time-travel through its 20th century history. It is, after all, where "the Great War" (that is, "great" in the sense of "awful") started, in Sarajevo, where the film ends eighty years later, among more massacres and mayhem. Angelopoulos considers himself a historian of 20th century Greece, who likes to bring lessons of the Hellenic myths into his discussions. I would like to emphasize that it is useless, and even detrimental to the enjoyment of Ulysses' Gaze, to try to see in this film the retelling of Homer's Odyssey in a contemporary context. Angelopoulos does not try to recount the Odyssey. Rather, the Odyssey is merely a reference point, and the missing films become the journey's Ithacan destination.

On one level, Ulysses' Gaze is a search for the roots of the cinema of the Balkans, and more generally, of the cinema itself. Ulysses' Gaze considers the importance of film in recording history, and its potential in influencing its future development. Angelopoulos also suggests early in the film, through the events taking place in Florina, that film, not the Hollywood-type schlock, but thought-provoking film such as his can influence people's lives.

The second theme is of course, the odyssey of "A" through the Balkans, and as Ulysses was, "A" must also be clever to overcome all the journey's obstacles in order to reach his goal, the lost film reels. But this journey is actually the individual nostalgic journey of a man in search of his past, his loves, and his losses. "A," a Greek-American, left his native country thirty years before. It is said that of all the immigrants who come to the United States, the ones who long the most for their native country are the Greeks. Many eventually return home, and "A" is just one more of them

Finally, the film is also a Balkans history lesson. The voyage goes on its long and weary itinerary over this hostile region, and as it proceeds, we learn about past but also about present events, which tore, and are still tearing, this area apart. Although Angelopoulos' political stand is well known, the film stays clear of any political moral regarding the Bosnian war. Angelopoulos cannot help but be pessimistic in that respect: "plus ça change et plus c'est la meme chose" is his only conclusion. In Homer's epic poem, Ulysses returns to Ithaca, kills all the suitors, and most likely, lives "happily ever after" with his Penelope. But in Ulysses' Gaze, Angelopoulos knows his history well: the real Balkans are not, nor have they ever been, a heaven of peace. So, the war goes on, and "A," although having attained his Ithaca, is still trapped in Sarajevo, with all of his friends dead. For "A," the odyssey continues, as he recites Homer's optimistic lines, which are aimed at the future, "When I return...." What has meaning to Angelopoulos is not so much the goal of the journey, but the journey itself: "The story that never ends."

Angelopoulos' films tend to be monumental and slow, with striking images and a dreamlike rhythm. His films require audience participation through the viewer's memories, thoughts, and feelings. In these respects, Ulysses' Gaze is undeniably an Angelopoulos film, and certainly one of his masterpieces. Notwithstanding most American reviewers, such as Roger Ebert who described Ulysses' Gaze as "a numbing bore," I highly recommend this film, although I understand that I probably will be cursed by many who, brainwashed by Hollywood directors, will have followed my advice and be rather disappointed by the experience. Ulysses' Gaze won the Grand Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize, 1995.
One of the top ten movies of the nineties if not the best!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 07/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film deserves all the supreme adjectives that you can imagine. Much more than a simple film ; this work will let you thinking due its deep and disturbing ideas involved. It deals about the human condition , the seek for the epic sense of our life , the bitter sight about the western civilization , the decadence of Greece in the actual world , the weight of the memory , the old images of our parents , the nosthalgy for our beloved country , the vulgarity vs. the aristos , the tragedy of a world that has lost its center , the insanity of the Balcan war , the reflexion about the ancient mythology , the fall of Lenin statue in the Danube , the unforgettable sequence between Kaitel and Josephson in that dark room in which Erland Josephson thinks in loud voice : I{m a cinema lover ; a collector of lost images!. This is a mythical journey through the devasted and hopeless Europe.
I don't know why , but i reminded all along the film this statement from Curzio Malaparte : "Europe is dead , because its sons are born from dead mothers". This thought emerges from Malaparte's pen when he watches a dying mother when his baby is born at once!
Let me tell you something . I've watching almost the films of this poet : Theo Angelopoulus , this film maker is at the level of the giants , I mean Tarkovsky , Bresson , Bergman or Fellini . And if you inquire me about his masterpiece this one wins by far .
Angeloulus thought in Al Pacino at first , but Pacino was busy in another work . So he decided for Kaitel and believe me : this became a wise decision , because Keitel has been one of the giants actors all over the world . And in this case Kaitel makes a personal tour de force and breathtaking acting .
There are so many issues involved in this picture that I hardly may comment in this brief review. But if you want to convince by yourself about an artistic film , this is for you.
Cannes : Grand Jury Prize winner 1995."