Ulysses' Gaze (1995)

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Director: Theo Angelopoulos
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Erland Josephson, Maïa Morgenstern

Synopsis

A Greek filmmaker on a return visit to his homeland for a screening of his controversial film hears of three undeveloped rolls of film by the pioneer Manakis brothers and sets out in search of them on a journey which will take him through the length and breadth of the Balkans, its twentieth century history as well as its geography.

The Review

The director pursues his familiar preoccupations of national turmoil and personal identity through a wintry landscape and some typically long and complex takes. The filmmaker's search for that 'first gaze' takes him into his own past as well as that of his subjects, and war is a constant background. There is a cycle to this journey, as distinct from the Odyssey evoked by one or two ingenious references (a statue of Lenin stands for Polyphemus, Circe is a war widow), the hero parts from his Penelope more than once, and the intrusion of the past into the mise en scène adds to the feeling of disorientation. In short, a haunting examination of what makes up the soul of a man, or of a nation; the lost footage is the metaphor of that soul perhaps: intangible, essential, always beyond reach. Or else it is lost innocence, the innocence of the unblinking gaze before artifice intruded, an ideal Angelopoulos's cinema both apes and denies.