- LULU / PANDORA'S BOX
- DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
- FEDRA
- THE FUGITIVE KIND
- THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS
- PHAEDRA
- HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
- YOUNG APHRODITES
- CONTEMPT
- PROMETHEUS FROM THE VISEVICE ISLAND
- SANDRA OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS
- THE GOLDEN THING
- THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS
- EURIDICE BA 2037
- IPHIGENIA
- A DREAM OF PASSION
- CLASH OF THE TITANS
- THE YEARS OF THE BIG HEAT
- ENIOCHUS - THE CHARIOTEER
- ANTIGONE
- EDIPO ALCADE
- THAT'S LIFE
- BLADE RUNNER
- VERTIGO
- MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
- ORPHEUS
- PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
- ULYSSES
- HERACLES AND THE QUEEN OF LYDIA
- BLACK ORPHEUS
- ANTIGONE
- ELECTRA
- JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
- ‘«Ň GORGON
- OEDIPUS REX
- ‘«Ň ILLIAC PASSION
- THE CANNIBALS
- ŐEDEA
- NOTES FOR AN AFRICAN ORESTEIA
- FOR ELECTRA
- PROMETHEUS IN THE SECOND PERSON
- VOYAGE TO CYTHERA
- ULYSSES' GAZE
- ‘«Ň MATRIX
- O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

ULYSSES
ULISSE
…taly, 1954


Directed by: Mario Camerini. Screenplay: Franco Brusati, Ennio de Concini, Hugh Gray, Ben Hecht, Ivo Perilli, Irwin Shaw, Mario Camerini. Director of Photography: Harold Rosson. Set Design: Flavio Mogherini. Costume Design: Giulio Coltellacci. Music: Alessandro Cicognini. Film Editor: Leo Catozzo. Cast: Kirk Douglas (Ulysses), Silvana Mangano (Penelope / Circe), Anthony Quinn (Antinous), Rosanna Podestą (Nausica), Franco Interlenghi (Telemachus), Jacques Dumesnil (Alcinous), Sylvie (Eurycleia), Daniel Ivernel (Eurylochus), Tania Weber, Umberto Silvestri. Production: Carlo Ponti, Dino de Laurentiis, Lux Film, Paramount. Length: 104 min. Colour.

The curse of Cassandra, laid upon him for his desecration of the Temple of Poseidon, condemns Ulysses for many years to wander the seas after the siege of Troy. Menwhile his wife Penelope is importuned by many suitors, and her temporizing –with the excuse that she will not re-marry until she has finished the tapestry which she secretly unpicks each night– is fast losing its effect. Ulysses is shipwrecked upon the kingdom of King Alcinous, where –having lost his memory– he falls in love with Nausicaa, the King’s daughter. They are about to marry when Ulysses’ memory returns. He recalls (in flashback) the siege of Troy; the Cyclops Polyphemus and the trick by which he and his crew escaped after blinding the giant’s solitary eye; how he heard the song of the sirens without falling their victim; his sojourn on the island of the enchantress Circe, with whom he lived for many months, till his crew, tired of waiting, put to sea without him, and were drowned in a storm of Circe’s making. His memory of his past and home restored, Ulysses returns to Penelope, disguised as a beggar. He only reveals himself at an archery contest, arranged by Antinous, strongest of the suitors, to decide who shall mary Penelope. With the aid of his son Telemachus and a few faihtful followers, he slays all the importunate suitors, and is reunited with Penelope.

A version that ranks high
The siren episode [...] deserves the highest praise. To portray a music "so haunting that it led men to their death," director Mario Camerini put Alessandro Cicognini’s intensifying choral music to the lamenting recitation by Penelope and Telemachus. Thus the Sirens lure Ulysses in the beckoning voices of his wife and son, exploiting the vulnerability of a man who has not seen his beloved wife and child in well over a decade. Lashed to the mast, he struggles against thick ropes while listening to the loud, tantalizing cries of wife and son; all this is set before the beeswax-eared sailors who row silently and swiftly behind him.
In contrast, the scene on Circe’s island offers the amusing spectacle of Ithacans changed into pigs by a puff of smoke, then suffering the kicks of an uncomprehending Ulysses, who has called for his men and doesn’t recognize them in their porcine guise. "What are these pigs doing here?" he says, with comic frustration. Mangano plays Circe as well as Penelope, a cinematic strategy that accents the sorceress’s mysterious power over Ulysses.
The Homeric enchantress Calypso is conflated with Circe for the sake of economy. Circe, like Calypso in the epic, offers Ulysses immortality, "the greatest gift offered to mankind," if he will stay with her. When Ulysses refuses, Circe raises the stakes by showing him the entrance to Hades. He does not descend to the edge of the Underworld as in the Odyssey, but several shades of past acquaintances appear to him in an effectively smoky and deathly atmospheric tableau. Achilles’ ghost moans one of the most profound lines in Homer: "I’d rather slave among the wondering barbarians than be king among all the dead" (Odyssey 11, 489-91). Ajax and Agamemnon rue their respective deaths by suicide and faithless wife. Death is horrible, yet Ulysses decides to remain a mortal –"I hope if men ever speak of me, it will be as one of them"– and prepares to sail home.
By telescoping the Hades, Circe, and Calypso sequences, the film adapts a broad range of Homer’s dramatic and philosophical aims in an economical form appropriate to cinema. The strategy is artistically innovative yet true to the spirit of the source. Greco-Roman mythology has survived for so many years because it has always been flexible and allowed for artistic variation. Ulysses deserves to be appreciated with the same tolerance and understanding as Monteverdi’s Orfeo or Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde: all three works of art are entitled to the same mythopoetic license.
While no film should be expected to transfer a four hundred-page epic poem onto the screen, Ulysses preserves the archaic, mysterious aura of the Odyssey, along with the adventurous character of its hero and the fantastic oddity of his encounters at sea. Each of the famous episodes is rearranged slightly; the nature of the Sirens’ music, for example, or the omission of the "No Man" ruse in the Cyclops sequence. But Ben Hecht, Hugh Gray, and Irwin Shaw combined to write one of the most entertaining and apothegmatic scripts of its kind. By no means a flawless film (the dubbing is weak, as are some of the minor characters), Ulysses still ranks high. A bit shallow on the surface and crude in realization, it captures the spirit of the earliest fantasy novel of Western civilization.

Jon Solomon
The Ancient World in the Cinema,
Yale University Press, 1995