Directed by Joseph Strick, starring Milo O'Shea, Barbara Jefford and Maurice Roeves
Filmed in 1967 and subsequently banned for 33 years, American director Joseph Strick's take on 'Ulysses' is a beguiling look at a Dublin and Dubliners long since consigned to both myth and memory. Relocating the action of the book to the 1960s, the film follows the June 16 odyssey of troubled couple Leopold and Molly Bloom (Milo O'Shea and Barbara Jefford leading a superb cast) and disillusioned teacher Stephen Dedalus (Maurice Roeves) through the sights and streets of the capital and their minds.
Condensing some episodes of the book ('Nausicaa') and combining others ('Sirens' and 'Cyclops'), Strick's realisation of Joyce is both fluid and faithful, moving with the confidence of someone who understands the book and adding little that isn't on the page already. And as befits a director whose education was in the documentary genre, Strick has a talent for making scenes look as fresh and natural as their subjects: witness the episode in Barney Kiernan's pub which flows with the banter and bustle of everyday life but never seem rehearsed, the camera just another punter at the bar. He also manages to translate the characters' streams of consciousness remarkably well, in particular Leopold's thoughts as he journeys through the red light district and Molly's closing monologue. In the latter, montage drives the paean to life and love, the images as haunting as the words that have inspired them.
It's arguable whether knowledge of the book dictates enjoyment of the film: for devotees there's the challenge of seeing the pictures outside of their own minds while the uninitiated will benefit from a thought-provoking introduction to a literary colossus. A triumph on a budget and a fine documentation of a city before the bulldozers, Strick's film richly deserves the one audience it has been denied for so long.