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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

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The Odyssey brought alive on the screen with a vengeance
It is very tempting and interesting to compare this version with earlier ones, that is the Hollywood version of 1954 with Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn and Silvana Mangano, and the 1968 version by Franco Rossi with Irene Papas as Penelope. Hollywood is Hollywood, and they did what they could in 1954 to make the universal epic of the Odyssey a box office success, and it remains a good film worth watching still today but rather superficial for its popularization. The Italian 1968 version received universal acclaim as above all extremely artistic and aesthetically precious, and Bekim Fehmiu as Ulysses was more interesting, human and deeper than the dashing Kirk Douglas. The 1954 version was also directed by an Italian, but this 3 hours version of 1997 is something completely different. The director is a Russian and no one less than Andrei Konchalowsky, one of the best directors in modern times and equal at least to Nikita Michalkhov, who happens to be hís younger brother. These two directors are without equals today, and among Konchalowsky’s earlier masterpieces we find “Runaway Train” (1985 in Alaska) and “The Inner Circle” (1991 about Stalin’s private cinema operator). Both earlier versions of “The Odyssey” fall in the shadow of this gorgeously elaborate and highly dramatized version with Armand Assante as a Ulysses that couldn’t be better. Greta Scacchi is equally perfect as Penelope, and as Ulysses’ mother we here find Irene Papas again, still outrageously beautful after 40 years of equal beauty as an ouitstanding actress. It’s above all cinematographically and visually that this visualization of “The Odyssey” transcends all others. It’s simply impossible to make a better film version of Homer’s eternal masterpiece of the first novel in history, and Homer himself would surely have smiled in contentment if he saw this, although much of his original has been rather liberally altered – not to gain popularity of an audience, mind you, but to adapt it to the media of the screen.

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