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Ulysses’ Gaze (1995, Harvey Keitel, Erland Josephson)

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‘The first thing God created was the journey’, claims one of the characters in this epic enigma. No one knows that journey better than director and writer Theo Angelopoulous, who surmounted logistical and production difficulties on a scale rarely seen outside of Hollywood to deliver his vision.

At $4 million this was easily the biggest project in Greek movie history, with numerous foreign locations and a tempestuous yet brilliant American lead, HARVEY KEITEL. At first, bad weather stopped the shoot. Then Keitel proved elusive, necessitating rescheduling. The biggest blow came with the death of GIAN MARIA VOLONTE who had to be replaced by ERLAND JOSEPHSON and all relevant scenes re-shot amid the civil war in Mostar and the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, which had been chosen as the ideal location.

An exiled film director simply known as ‘A’ (Harvey Keitel) returns to Greece with a new film and a quest to locate three reels of undeveloped celluloid shot by the Manakis brothers as the Balkans’ first film. His search takes him to Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia, where he is escorted by the first of several beautiful women (played by MAĻA MORGENSTERN) and is assailed by memories of a troubled past which may help redeem an imperfect future.

The critics hailed the film as a ‘major cinematic accomplishment’ (Empire) and it was awarded the Grand Jury prize at the 1995 Cannes International Film Festival. Legendary perfectionist Angelopoulous took the lack of a Palme d’Or as a personal affront, and told the audience, ‘If this is what you have to give me, I have nothing to say,’ and stormed off the stage. Award presenter Andy Garcia, and an assembled European press corps, were left lost for words.

production details
Yugoslavia – Romania – France | 176 minutes | 1995

Director: Theo Angelopoulos
Script: Theo Angelopoulos, Tonino Guerra, Petros Markaris, Giorgio Silvagni

cast
Harvey Keitel as A
Erland Josephson as Ivo Levy
Maia Morgenstern as Ulysses’ Wives
Thanasis Vengos as Taxi Driver
Giorgos Mihalakopoulos as Nikos
Dora Volanaki as Old Woman
Mania Papadimitriou as Mother
Giorgos Konstas as Father
Thanos Grammenos as Manakias’ Assistant
Alekos Oudinotis as Greek Film Library Manager
Angel Ivanov as Bulgarian Interrogator
Ljuba Tadić
Vaggelis Liodakis
Gert Llanaj
Agni Vlahou
Giannis Zavradinos
Vangelis Kazan
Mirka Kalatzopoulou
Dimitris Kaberidis
Eva Kotamanidou
Miranda Kounelaki
Nikos Kouros
Natalia Mihailidou
Nadia Mourouzi
Vasilis Bouyiouklakis
Christoforos Nezer
Tania Palaiologou
Stratos Pahis
Jenny Roussea
Stratos Tzortzoglou
Giannis Fyrios
Dora Hrisikou

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