Ulysses' Gaze ★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

I hesitate to call this pretentious self-parody, but only because we’re supposed to know that’s philistine code for not understanding it. In this case, however, it feels apropos, for despite Angelopoulos’ (to follow his possessive) unmistakable bids for profundity over its three tortured hours, his efforts are strained at every moment. His only means of reflecting on cinema and history are through dubious gimmicks (each woman represents All Women in his life, and are all played Maia Morgenstern) and turgid, would-be poetry from the mouth of the woefully stiff Harvey Keitel (“I wish I could tell you I'd return/But something is holding me back/The journey isn't over, not yet!”). While the world Angelopoulos conjures is largely psychological, his rare attempts at narrative credibility are laughable, like the way A. goes from asking “Is this Sarajevo?” to a minute later asking a boy on the street if he knows Ivo Levy (of course he does!), or when, after years of toil, the correct formula for developing the Manakis films is produced simply by A. begging Levy to “try one more time.” This may sound like nitpicking, but it’s indicative of his weakness for the ponderous over depth and coherence.