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A proof of the superiority of European cinema.
Odysseus-926 October 1999
With "Ulysses' Gaze", Theo Angelopoulos proves that he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary cinema. This film explores the idea of how people must go through their personal Odyssey to reach their destination with an unbelievable poetic quality. By exploring the idea of this journey, Angelopoulos shows how much he is influenced by the poems of Nobel prize-winning Greek poet George Seferis. The atmosphere of the film is admittedly extraordinary, aided by the terrific cinematography of Giorgos Arvanitis, Angelopoulos' collaborator since "Reconstruction" (1972).

But the incredibly dense philosophical context of the film does not stop there, as Angelopoulos depicts the tumultuous history of twentieth-century Balkans with extreme precision and artistry.

Harvey Keitel gave the best performance of his career, even managing to speak a few sentences in Greek without sounding too awkward. Maia Morgenstern (as symbols for Penelope, Nausikaa, Circe and Calypso in her multiple roles) and Erland Josephson are also quite good, while Thanassis Vengos gives a tragi-comic note to the film, with his performance as the taxi driver.

The fact that I am Greek (and therefore I am familiar with the political situation and able to identify with events better) admittedly played a major part in my interpretation of "Ulysses' Gaze" and non-Balkan viewers may find it difficult to identify with the film. However, the idea of the journey is universal and it is a pity that Angelopoulos is often dismissed by most Greeks as being too "difficult".
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An obsessive search
jandesimpson20 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER insofar as some final scenes are mentioned

For me an Angelopoulos experience is unlike anything the contemporary cinema has to offer. His work has a grip that totally mesmerises and leaves me unable to think about much else let alone see another film for several days. Although the pace of this passionately committed cinema is slower than most artists would dare to adopt, the fast forward button is an option I would never contemplate. I embrace the adagio tempo as I would the slow movement of a great symphony, for here indeed we have the time to ponder on what we are being shown, to search for meanings that are not always readily clear. I suspect the reason so many viewers misinterpret the Greek master's work is impatience. Several viewings are essential to unravel these multi-layered visual poems. When "Eternity and a Day" came to our local art moviehouse I had to rush back to see it on a second evening; not enough to assimilate it fully or venture to say what it meant, but sufficient to give me the feeling that, together with "Landscape in the Mist", it could be one of the most profound experiences in any art form in the last quarter of the 20th century. I would not make a similar claim for the rather uneven "Ulysses'Gaze", but at least closer familiarity gives me the confidence to question many of the interpretations I have read. Although it takes the Balkan conflict and in particular the plight of Sarajevo as much of its background it is not a war film. Neither is it a story of a man's journey to find himself. However, anyone observing the different behavioural patterns of men and women will have picked up on the obsessiveness of men with their hobbies as opposed to women. Unlike girls, boys swap cards in the playground to obtain sets. This mania for collection often develops into adulthood until a point can be reached when it might mar a man's relationships with a women. The cinema is littered with examples from George Cole's obsession with kites in the British "Quartet" to the young man's anger when his wife messes up the order of his record collection in "Diner". In "Ullyses' Gaze" we have the profoundest exploration of man's obsession with one enthusiasm to the detriment of everything else in his life. The central character's search for the missing reels of the earliest Balkan film footage is made without regard for his safety through war zones to the extent that he hardly knows where he is at times. "Is this Sarajevo?" he bewilderingly cries to people whose only concern is to escape sniper bullets. Although he meets several women (always played by the same actress) during his odyssey, he is unable to make lasting relationships. In possibly the most revealing scene in the entire film he weeps as he embraces one of his companions "Why are you crying?" she asks. "Because I cannot love you," is the reply. In the background is a huge statue of Lenin about to be shipped on a barge down the Danube for a "collector" we never see; undoubtedly the hero's alter ego. At one point he takes refuge in the memory of his mother (again the same actress) and family. During a remarkable held shot of a room in the family house in Constanza, five years of history are chronicled through three New Year's Eve parties. It is the most marvellous use of truncating time without breaking action that I know. The penultimate scene of the massacre in the mist is sickening. It is about as awful as the ending of Zanussi's "Constans", possibly more so because of the false hope that precedes it. But although this forces the hero to question his obsession, there is no indication that he has conquered it. At moments as dreadful as this the obsession almost becomes a solace.
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Another approach to the language of cinema.
niktemadur7 June 2004
Somebody once said that DW Griffith is to blame for having a wide open horizon, full of possibilities, and settling for melodrama as the blueprint of the movie-going experience.

However, once in a long while, a film comes along that breaks the mold and shows us once again what can be done. Glimpses only, hints at untapped potential. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is one such example. Fellini's "Satyricon" is another. "Solaris" by Tarkovsky. And so is "Ulysses' Gaze". There are more.

I like to be challenged, even as I enjoy some standard Hollywood fare. I like to be shaken up with the promise of a nudge towards enlightenment. I love to feel awakened from my everyday, sleepwalking mode.

Granted, "Ulysses' Gaze" is NOT for everyone. But to dismiss this film as "another one of those art films", to call it bloated, is an exercise in laziness. And to condemn Angelopoulos of arrogance, well, how about considering the terms confidence and conviction instead? I do not pretend to understand "Ulysses' Gaze", the film is so riddled with ambiguities and leaps back and forth into the realm of the subconscious and the surreal. I just allow myself to go with the flow, and regard a world that is so outside of the grid that it is like watching a transmission from another planet, with real people I identify, sharing genuine affection in small gestures. And even though the English dialogue is lacking at times, there is not a single one of those "Hallmark moments" that seems to pervade in contemporary Hollywood fare.

As for the prolonged landscape scenes, they show parts of the world (Albania, Bulgaria) that are as unknown to me as the bottom of the ocean. If just for this alone, I am hypnotized.

To make the effort, to absorb "Ulysses' Gaze", is a small step towards understanding the ruthless, constant plight of the people of that small corner of the world that is the Balkans. Just one small corner. Imagine.

I have to say that "Ulysses' Gaze" is an incredible film, one of a few by which XX century's great cinema should (and will) eventually be regarded.
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great cinema
irina-311 March 2002
Theo Angelopoulos can take his place in the line with other great artists, as Bergman, Tarkovskii, etc. The piece is long, but not boring at all, though it's not an easy viewing. Viewer has to posess at least rudimentary knowledge about European, and, in particular, Balkan history. TA transform a personal story into a parable of Odissei's journey, a neverending search for one's soul. The shots are beautiful, even with somehow faded film.
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Brilliantly flawed film
bob the moo25 July 2002
Greek filmmaker A travels back to his native country to show his most recent film after 35 years in America. However the religious groups protest and he is forced to abandon his plans. However he then decides to begin a search for the first pieces of film ever shot in Greece that remain unprocessed. His quest takes him across changing countries, bounders and war torn cities.

Personal films always run the risk of being too personal and losing the audience. Ulysses' Gaze runs that line very close and crosses it at times. The basic plot sees A travel across many borders and meeting many people. However the meaning of the film seems to be more about one man's obsession damaging the rest of his life and film as a means of recording history. This makes it a bit more difficult but the theme of obsession is well shown and it's A's quest that gripped me for the most part.

The direction is great – beautiful scenery, wonderful mesmeric tracking shots and long takes make for a great visual experience. However working in several languages takes it's toll and much of the english narration is weak and clumsy. That said he still paints some great pictures and the themes are mostly well developed. The scene where dialogue is played out in a misty screen for 4 minutes is great – while the huge Lenin statue is mesmerising.

However the english is weak and other flaws creep in. The use of the same woman to play several characters is an art movie cliché and just annoyed me as it seemed to serve no purpose. Keitel is not very good. He looks distracted at times – like the fact that he doesn't understand the language affected his ability to relate to those speaking it. His english dialogue is clumsily written but he does well for many key scenes.

Overall this didn't deserve to beat Underground as it is too long, has scenes that don't work and dialogue that is clumsy rather than poetic. However it still has masterful themes and visuals that make it worth watching despite the running time.
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abc-279 April 2002
I think this is the good movie and that Angelopoulos was right on target when he showed his disappointment for not winning the Golden Palm during the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

Not that the "Underground" was a bad movie. But the Gaze is better. The Gaze touches the source of the problem in the Balkan region. Balkans is a very beautiful region with wonderful landscapes and people with long history. There is where the problem is. There is too much history in the Balkans. Too many cultures, too many religions and too many political conflicts. The lost innocence of the Balkans, which the hero, the director "A" is looking for throughout the movie, is offered to the viewer through the movie's wonderful cinematography. There you see the best of Northern Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Many cities have different names in different languages. Many people fight with each other too. What remains in the end is the bitter-sweat taste of a region where virtue and malice go hand in hand.

One final remark. I agree with many critics who pointed out that the movie has some technical flaws, including its extremely slow pacing. Yes the movie could have been faster a.s.o. But hey, have you ever seen a better "glance" of the lost innocence of the Balkans?

People who have visited or lived in this region can surely appreciate this motion picture even more.
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Pure poetry
a_ruibal28 October 2006
One of the most beautiful, poetic films ever made. The opening scenes are pure, unbeatable art. Rather than the unwinding of the complex narrative itself, it is the visual power of the images that Angelopoulos offers us that make this work so disturbing and beautiful. You have to watch the film as a series of paintings, poems, installations and performances rather than a conventional movie. The acting is superb, especially Harvey Keitel's performance, one of the best that this great actor has ever delivered. Especially memorable is the scene in which an old woman is taken for a ride to her hometown in Macedonia by Keitel. The woman left Macedonia before the advent of Communism and is now returning to her country for the first time in decades. Since her absence, her place has been transformed in a nightmarish communist city, filled with gray, impersonal, concrete buildings. We see the woman helpless and bewildered in an environment that she no longer recognizes, while Keitel goes away. A powerful metaphor of the fast and tremendous transformations suffered by the Balkans during the 20th century.

This is above all a lesson in history. A poignant monument to the memory and fate of Europe.
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Why Americans perhaps are voting European films too low ..;
adelbert13 September 2001
I have remarked that most American film critics are voting a lot of European films too low. I think the reason why is that they have difficulties to understand them because they know too little of the European history. I think that this film is an example of it. You have to have a very deep insight in the history of Greece and the Balkan to understand this film. Beside the beautiful cinematography, there is more to look for an understanding. It's a pity that a lot of Americans are knowing so little of history, because so there critics are missing a lot!
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Very successful mix of political and personal history
cwieck_227 July 2004
Justly famous for being one of the last remaining directors still doing extraordinary cinema, in this film Angelopoulos celebrates the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, while, at the same time, looking with touching sensitivity into the lives of people molded by recent (and less recent) History. Some of the scenes related to History have already become classic, but, personally, I was more impressed by the description of the way this History affected individuals and families. Although the media has covered so amply the tragic events in the Balkans and (to a lesser extent) the external aspects of people's life, very little has been said about more human aspects which, after all, will keep affecting them for many, many years to come. In my opinion, this film offers the most complete, convincing and respectful take on the affected people's emotions, memories and relations among the (few) films, documentaries and books touching on the theme.

The scale is epic both geographically and chronologically and since Angelopoulos manages to move easily between dream and reality (one of the biggest problems facing cinema directors), the personal stories are nicely interwoven with History. Angelopoulos' characteristic long takes, in this instance serve more than giving the film a poetic atmosphere. It is necessary for his goal of looking carefully on individuals' lives and describe their joys and sorrows.

In terms of execution, there were some flaws (especially in technicalities of directing of actors) but, frankly, I don't mind that, if the alternative is perfectly executed films but lacking interesting ideas.
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A difficult but ultimately rewarding film
pswitzertatum4 July 2004
Before seeing this film for the first time, I was already familiar with the brilliant CD of the music. I had some idea through the music of what the film portrayed, but was somewhat put off by the three hours devoted to a movie about the Balkans. I just wasn't ready for a drama about this violent and troubling history although I had adored the wonderful film "Before the Rain." Now after viewing the compelling and stunning "Ulysses' Gaze" I can highly recommend both the music and the film. The music and the movie are exquisite partners. The cinematography is truly breathtaking. I was taken with the intense yearning and empathy of Harvey Keitel as the Ulysses of the quest, but especially struck by Maia Morgenstern as the female focus of the film. She is brilliant. And the great Erland Josephson is wonderful to watch. Although the movie is quite long, its richness and unusual perspectives are impressive, thought-provoking, and profound. I think that by the end, as is the main character, the viewer can be wholly changed by this experience.
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Ulysse's Gaze to me
fozzyozzy8426 March 2003
Major films and movies that I have seen have been primarily service pictures. I say service pictures because any idea being developed is immediately delivered in a reduced state right into the movie-goer's lap. It's a fast philosophy. This is unlike Ulysses' Gaze. I am still impressed by the movie because of its confidence in the viewer. I have read comments complaining about the film's overly long scenes. The scenes are an interaction between your mind and the screen. An image is produced and the director leaves the image for you to contemplate. Images shouldn't be beamed into minds as 10 second clips like Moulin Rouge. So many people explain to me their love of movies as a form of entertainment and escapism. Movies are an art form but like everything in this post-modern age, they cannot exist without the deep intellectual objective view point dividing the subjective experiences. Ulysses' Gaze does not REQUIRE patience it rewards contemplation and understanding.

Story-wise the plot is just as basic as The Wizard of Oz. An individual must journey to find home and a complete soul. I found it as a superb movie with its various allusions to mythology and actual history.
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When God created the World, the first thing he made were journeys
tintin-2316 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
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. 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. Except for the scenes taking place in Sarajevo, which were shot around Mostar, Vukovar, and in the Krijena region, all the other scenes were filmed on location, in Albania, the Republic of Skopje, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Serbia.

Angelopoulos wrote the script with the collaboration of Tonino Guerra. In "Ulysses' Gaze," history is present, but contrary to "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, 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. Erland Josephson's is, as always, up to snuff.

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.

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" 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. 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.
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Wow! As good as it gets
TheMrLee23 November 1998
I have never seen a film which promised so much. I can imagine that ten viewings from now, I will have only begun to understand all that is buried in this dense, complex, contemplative masterpiece.

This isn't a quick-thrill film, but the rewards it offers to its viewers are immense. If nothing else, it demonstrates what a true master of cinema can produce. Few directors have reached this height, perhaps Dryer, Welles, and Kirasawa. If you love the art of cinema, with all of the complexities its varied language can offer, see this film.
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Flawed, difficult, but amazing
runamokprods19 December 2010
On the surface, this is deeply flawed; there's some awkward dialogue, Harvey Kietel is OK, not amazing, the female characters are thin. But it's so damn full of breathtaking images, brave cinematic choices, multi-minute long shots, and a heart rending climax, that the flaws don't seem important some how. The story: A Greek film director caught in his own mid-life artistic and personal crisis goes on an odyssey to find lost footage by Greece's first filmmakers, traveling through the Balkans and revisiting his own life in the process. I can certainly understand the mixed reviews. This isn't an easy film, and if watched in the wrong mood, or without knowing what you're getting into (a slow, thoughtful 3 hour rumination on life, the past and art) could be very off-putting. But accepted on its own terms, warts and all it's an amazing odyssey; visual, emotional and thematic.
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pictures that fascinates
beautiful_loser9 February 2001
There is something in the pictures of this film that is indescribable. The camera is always lost in a deep fog , Keitel performance raptures the viewer and captivates by the poetic power of the pictures and dialogues. The movement of the camera subjugates, always moving , very slowly , it literally seems to float in the air , in the fog , around the actors . This slow , quiet presence of the camera delivers a lyrical feeling of peace and calm , even during the war .

A unique experience in cinema . 9/10
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A masterpiece about the loss of innocence
genjuro3 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Truly a masterpiece, perhaps the best film of the 90s. Angelopoulos made an incredibly beautiful, poetic and deep film. When you consider its title, many people pay too much attention to the word "Ulysses", when "Gaze" is probably more important. This film is about the loss of innocence. The main character, "A", searches for the Mannakis films. Pioneer filmmakers in the region, "A" wants to recover their innocent sight, that first sight of the early days in cinema. That search takes him on a journey around the Balkans, during the war. Angelopoulos wants to show us that, just as we have lost our innocent gaze towards films, there's no possible innocent gaze in a war, no objective approach. There's too much history behind, too much baggage, too much hate. There are no good or bad sides; everybody kills each other. That's why the final showing of the Mannakis tapes is so touching. Finally, a clean sight, an innocent gaze.
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3 hours I will never get back
trashcan19737 April 2005
This is one of the most boring movies I have ever seen, probably THE worst. A friend had rented it even though we'd never heard of it because of a lot of praise on the cover but my only explanation is that in fear of being accused of not understanding the artsy-fartsy deepness of it, they praise it. After about an hour we were both ready to give up in order to kill time some better way like playing monopoly or watching girls in infomercials for exercise equipment, but we decided to stick with it. After all, it COULD pick up and it had been praised, but most of all we didn't want anybody to tell us we couldn't criticize it because we hadn't seen all of it and we REALLY didn't have anything better to do. I was horrible. There's one scene 15 minutes long (really, we checked) with almost nothing but mute shots of a gigantic Lenin statue being transported on a barge down some river. "Almost" because for 30 seconds there's a short dialog between the PA system on the boat and the border patrol's PA system. The images don't move for this duration.

I must say there are many movies that are pretty good even though they are slow, but Your lives will be better if you don't see this movie.
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horrendous experience
Koenschoen27 December 2001
I saw this one back in 1995, and the fact that I'm writing this review now shows who deeply impressed I still am by "Le Regard d'Ulysse". Amazing how so many people rate this 10, as I left the movies in rage (I'd just as well had enjoyed throwing my money in the sewer) after having undergone this tormenting experience. The plot-line is so wafer-thin, that as a consequence substories run into dead-end allies all the time, are stretched at full, with the actors giving the impression to be as bored as they expect later spectators watching this 'piece of art'. Uncountable are the completely needless, seemingly endless stills of the landscapes Truly abhorring is the final scene, a real number one display of irritating movie-making by the director: you see nothing but fog, and you can only here the action taking place (how deep! how creative! how symbolical!)

I've seen some excellent movies about the Balkan (Kusturica's Underground for one, Before the rain for another) and I'm stunned to see this one ending up in the same category.
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A wonderful travel in the memory as a long dream
beppe_miletto27 August 2001
Nevertheless of an historic fall of a political dream this travel into the historic memory is a poetry from the first photogram to the last one... Harvey Keitel confirm his big appeal while playing characters with great personality and deep feeling.
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A film a little too long but still a masterpiece
beautiful_loser28 February 2001
This beautiful film is a picturesque adventure of a man , Keitel , always serene , in quest for a lost film, his life has not any sense but to find this film . The film is about the peace of mind expressed by the greatness. With superb violin music , pictures that fascinates , an odyssey of beauty through Europe . The film becomes a epic and is stamped with a sentiment of mystery , of past , memories , some scenes remind a sort of religious strangeness .
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jm15 March 2003
i can't think of any movie maker as pretentious and arrogant as

this greek cinema amateur. Theo Angelopoulus should be jailed

for doing this and for what he has been doing for years.

I wasted £2.5 to rent the video and even though is a small amount

of money I should have asked for a refund or, even better, to get

paid for watching this film. It is so boring, without any interest at all and it last for so long. It is

a real nightmare. Harvey Keytel is out of place, the still shots last

forever without any reason, there are too many pretentious scenes,

the movie lacks quality, etc... You'd better have the control with fast forward handy !!

The worst thing is that Theo thinks he is a poet of cinema, that no

one is above him, that he has the last word in cinema. It is

unbelievable that someone could even think about producing his

movies. Theo is nothing but an arrogant lunatic, someone who

has lost the plot and who lives isolated in his own world.
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pretentious drivel
DJSimon22 March 2000
This is an extraordinarily frustrating film. You want to like it, because it seems timely and it takes aim at Big Themes. Yet, in every scene the director chooses high, self-congratulatory concepts over plot, not to mention subtlety. Harvey Keitel is in a catatonic daze throughout the film -- to the extent that I think he must have thought it to be "acting" simply to not break out in laughter at the pretensions of the director. Despite some stirring and even a few (intentionally) humorous images, this film is not worth the time.
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Interesting art work, no film
dusan-2228 August 2009
Interesting allegory on Balkan syndrome and very good directing in artistic way, but this is about it. Everything else is a failure. Composition that mostly comprehends directors impression on Balkan phenomena and its reasons and consequences. Role of the film that has been recorded and hidden is probably the formula for Balkan happiness that can't be found. Beginning of the world civilization, beginning of all great wars and conflicts and world in small - these are the Balkans. But no trace, no reason no recipe, no solution. This is good. Very well represented - artistic as the film suppose to be and by all means I do support Theo by that. But ... I don't believe that you can make a film that is going to be slight idea of an expressionist understood only by himself. The film should be artistic way to show the reality to the spectator, an art lover. I have lived most of my life on Balkans, where I was born, among that many years in Greece, but still I cannot follow all the impressions of the director placed in the film. I believe that impressions are for the audience - as a spectator but also as a film maker. All in all, great actor as Harvey Keitel could be used in much better way. The same for the never ending resources on Balkan ideas. 5 out of 10 for Theo.
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Cosmoeticadotcom22 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos's 1995 film Ulysses' Gaze (To Vlemma Tou Odyssea) is the first of that director's four films that I have seen that is not unequivocally a great work of art. Yes, there are arguments that can be made in favor of that claim, but at 173 minutes in length, especially, it takes the most out of a viewer, especially considering that it's the least poetic of his films I've seen (which include Landscape In The Mist, Eternity And A Day, and Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow). This does not mean it is a bad film, nor that it lacks Angelopoulos's trademark visual poesy; it has that. But, there are some missing narrative elements, some poorly scripted moments, and a too slow dramatic movement, especially in the latter third of the film, which takes place in the city of Sarajevo.

The basic tale is that a nameless exiled Greek-American filmmaker, played by Harvey Keitel (and referred to as 'A' in the DVD credits, and in many reviews, although nowhere in the film is the character's name mentioned), returns to the Balkans after thirty-five years, and is seeking to find three lost reels of footage from the earliest known extant Greek film, made by the Manakis Brothers (Yannakis and Miltos) in 1905. They seem to be near-mythic figures, who represent something akin to what D.W. Griffith was to American cinema, although they were documentarians, logging for decades the travails of the Balkans, and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Keitel's character seems to have more personal reasons for making this sojourn, and several possibilities are hinted at in flashback scenes, wherein Keitel simply wanders into his past, or a dream sequence involving the claimed death of one of the brothers. Keitel speaks mostly in English, while most of the other characters speak in Greek or the other native languages. The film does not rely on typical narrative to reveal Keitel's quest, rather on a barrage of slowly developing images that subsumes the story into an emotional upwelling. Often, the camera of cinematographers Yorgos Arvanitis and Andreas Sinanos slowly pans ahead of Keitel, then back toward him, or pulls away from a scene, turns 90 or 180 degrees, then swivels back and peers even more deeply at whatever scene it just left, as if to signal that what seems the same is different, which pulls a viewer into a closer reckoning of stasis vs. change,

Overall, this is a very good film. It also has a magnificently effective score by Eleni Karaindrou, especially with great viola passages by Kim Kashkashian, which seem almost organically part of Angelopoulos's visuals. Angelopoulos's film scores are perhaps the only ones which are the equal of the great Werner Herzog's films. This film's main flaws, however, lie in its screenplay. The film was penned by Angelopoulos, longtime Fellini and Angelopoulos collaborator Tonini Guerra, Giorgio Silvani, and Petros Markaris, but goes on a good 40 or so minutes too long. Some trimming of more pedestrian scenes by editor Yannis Tsitsopoulos, some neat Ozu-like elisions (which Angelopoulos makes expert use of in other films), and this film would have been a great film, if just shy of a masterpiece, due to several small forced moments of overacting, and soliloquies tinged lavender in their prose: 'If I should but stretch out my hand I will touch you and time will be whole again,' uttered by Keitel. The film came in second at the Cannes Film Festival that year, winning the Grand Prix, not the Palm D'Or, but it has taken a beating from some critics. In this country, the most virulent review came from none other than that noted lover of Spielbergian tripe, Roger Ebert, who among other things, wrote:

What's left after Ulysses' Gaze is the impression of a film made by a director so impressed with the gravity and importance of his theme that he wants to weed out any moviegoers seeking interest, grace, humor, or involvement….It is an old fact about the cinema- known perhaps even to those pioneers who made the ancient footage A is seeking- that a film does not exist unless there is an audience between the projector and the screen. A director, having chosen to work in a mass medium, has a certain duty to that audience. I do not ask that he make it laugh or cry, or even that he entertain it, but he must at least not insult its good will by giving it so little to repay its patience. What arrogance and self-importance this film reveals.

Would that Ebert was so assertive about the vomit that the many Hollywood schlockmeisters he praises put out. Yes, this film is not a laugh riot, but there are some humorous moments, such as Keitel's interactions with an old Albanian woman he lets share a Greek cab with him. As for grace, interest, and involvement? Well, it's there, even if it requires a bit of intellectual cogitation on the part of a viewer, something that most Americans (and American critics) are unwilling to give. This is best illustrated by an anecdote Keitel's character tells, of taking a Polaroid photo of an olive tree that, when he watches develop, shows that the tree was not really there. Yet, we never see this anecdote's stunning imagery play out; it's only related via words, or the imagination, therefore all the more effective, in the way a great film like My Dinner With Andre is. Would that more people had that quality which Angelopoulos so manifestly owns, in the best moments of this work, and his other masterpieces; for then even flawed but excellent films like this would get their proper due.
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Brilliant...take the ride!
Marlo Bernier12 March 2004
Seen this film at least 4 times and each time i'm both re-engaged by the scenes with which i'm very familiar, as well as seeing something new.

I could go on about this and that...the must see this film and take the ride yourselves...yes, it's an investment and yes, you have to "let yourselves go", simply plug in and enjoy the Taxidi(journey)!!

Mr Kietels' work is unimpeachable, this i believe is as much his story as it is the story(in-part) of the brothers Manakia...and what a story that think that they were chronicaling some of the most important events the world had yet experienced is in itself pretty incredible.
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