John Lyttle on film

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Never let anyone else choose the film. They might hoard back copies of Sight and Sound, think that video art "reflects the fragmented nature of our post-industrial, pre-Millennium culture", believe Jerry Lewis is a genius and - natural progression - decide you're up for Ulysses' Gaze, described, in an obvious typo in these very pages, as "stunning", when we meant "stunned" - as in cattle prod.

Theo Angelopoulos hasn't directed a movie; he has presided over a migraine. A long, long migraine (176 minutes). And how the seconds crawl in this treatise of an exiled Greek director (Harvey Keitel, right), the bloodshed of Sarajevo and some rediscovered reels of silent film, possibly the first to be shot in the Balkans. Gentle reader, everyone involved in this project should be shot in the Balkans. It's not that I - or anyone - is against illuminating depictions of human suffering, but there's human suffering and multiple-choice human suffering. Ulysses' Gaze is infatuated with its own intellectual importance and what it "has to say", even when what it compares and contrasts - war and cinema - makes little or no sense, as is usually the case with forced connections.

A Greek director casting Harvey Keitel as a Greek director who happens to be the most sensitive and lusted after man in the movie ought to have provided fair warning, but you'd never guess from the reviews, which treat the "hero" on his own (high) estimation, as if to mock would be a philistine act. Maybe that's why this hymn to pretension has had rave reviews; it's near impossible to know what's actually going on if you're looking at something from down on your knees.

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