This is the third attempt that I know of to film James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’ve never read it, but there are scholars who have devoted entire careers to it. Just Google the title and you’ll find some fascinating sites that map out the day’s journey of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through Dublin, and long analyses and comparisons to The Odyssey, upon which the book is loosely based. My feeling is that just because it’s a great book (and I offer no opinion about that) doesn’t mean it will make a great film, or even that it should be filmed at all. Ulysses is largely internal monologue, so we get endless shots of people looking pensive while voice-overs detail their stream-of-consciousness thoughts. Doesn’t add up to much, cinematically. O Brother Where Art Thou was also loosely based on The Odyssey. I’d recommend you see that film instead of this one. The rest of the story is dreams, or drunken fantasies, or something, very little of which made any sense at all to watch. It was all very pretty, and well-written, and well-acted, but I didn’t get much from it. Only the very last of the book’s 18 chapters moved me at all, when Molly is in bed with the sleeping Bloom, and we hear her thoughts. These were voiced by Angeline Ball, an actress we first encountered in one of our favorite films, The Commitments.
I must add that it might just be possible to do justice to the book. I would not have thought that anybody could make a good film from Joyce’s “Dubliners,” it looked really unpromising material for the screen, but John Huston proved me wrong with The Dead. So who knows? I’m waiting for the musical version of Finnegan’s Wake, a book I did read … well, three chapters of it, anyway. No one could ask for more.