Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey (2018) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Sep-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 115:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Federico Alotto
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Andrea Zirio
Danny Glover
Udo Kier
Anamaria Marinca
Drew Kenney
Gianni Capaldi
Jessica Polsky
Giovanni Mancaruso
Sigal Diamant
Francesca Ravera
Charlotte Kirk
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Alan Brunetta
Yellows


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, and drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The near future: the United States of Europe are in chaos, fighting a war in the Middle East and with its biggest city, Taurus City, controlled by crime boss Michael Ocean (Danny Glover) through his chief enforcer Tony (Gianni Capaldi). Johnny, also known as Uly (Andrea Zirio), returns home to Taurus City from the Middle East after seven years with no memory of where he has been and only limited memory of who he is. His old apartment now has other tenants and his wife Penelope (Anamaria Marinca) is missing. After recruiting his old comrade Niko (Drew Kenney), Johnny embarks on a search for Penelope through the underworld of Taurus City, encountering drug dealer Aeo (Giovanni Mancaruso), Cici (Sigal Diamant), Scilla (Francesca Ravera), Hermes (Mario Acampa), the Seer (Skin), Kaly (Charlotte Kirk) and Alcyde (horror icon Udo Kier), all the time hunted by Tony and police detectives Marino (Christopher Jones) and Delfin (Jessica Polsky). As Johnny starts to recover his memory it seems that he has history with Michael Ocean, not the least being that his wife Penelope is Ocean’s daughter. A confrontation is coming.

     Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey is an Italian production (in English) directed and co-written by Federico Alotto, the other co-writer being the leading man Andrea Zirio. For filmmakers with only one feature behind them, this is an audacious and ambitious film based on Homer’s The Odyssey that veers between being very good and annoying in almost equal measure. Almost every filmmaking trick and technique is used during the filming (with the exception of split screens); abrupt camera pans and zooms, different film speeds slowing and speeding up the action, queasy moving cameras, frenetic editing, single frames of extreme colours and intense bursts of sound. There are also a number of rave party scenes with loud thumping electronic music and kinetic lighting effects which tend to wear a bit thin. However, perhaps there is a good treason for all the trickery for it diverts attention from the wooden acting and the stilted, often pretentious, dialogue.

     And yet in places Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey is intriguing. It utilises a flashback structure to gradually reveal who the characters are and the interrelationships between them. These flashbacks are not overdone, however, so the narrative structure remains fairly straightforward until a major twist towards the end; it is clear that Johnny / Ulysses is badly scarred physically and psychologically by his experiences in the war and the twist questions just how much this has affected what we are seeing through his eyes, and his quest for his wife. And then in the climax all the camera tricks and frenetic editing are pared away leaving two individuals, in almost silence, in front of a solid black background, in a scene that is poignant and moving. One somehow wishes that more of the film could have been as compelling as these sequences, or the final scene of the film.

     One gets the impression that the makers of Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey took on more than they could accomplish. The camera tricks are amateurish, and the subplot with the police only complicates things and could have been omitted without hurting the film, except perhaps the running time. However, the film is exuberant and capable of holding one’s attention and the cross-referencing of characters in The Odyssey into a modern context is a lot of fun. Full marks for effort!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey is in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, NTSC and 16x9 enhanced.

     In a film with flamboyant camera moves and zooms, quick editing, dark buildings, rave parties with flashing lights and smoke haze and bright, washed out colour in the flashbacks to the war, it is hard to tell how solid the detail is or if there are artefacts or marks. These things are deliberate, I know. There are also bright vibrant colours flashing up in single frames to show the disorientation of the characters. The couple of daytime scenes, however, show strong detail and nice colours and the night flyovers of the city have solid blacks and good shadow detail. Skin tones are glossy but generally fine.

     The layer change at 57:38 resulted in a pause mid-scene.

     No subtitles are provided. However small white subtitles come on for all of Aeo’s (Giovanni Mancaruso) English dialogue, presumably because someone decided it was hard to understand. It was, but I don’t think he was the hardest to understand by any means, so it was an interesting choice.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 Kbps.

     This is a loud and aggressive audio track, although channel separation is not always clear. The rears and surrounds were full of explosions, bursts of sound, announcements off screen and the throbbing electronic music of the rave parties, crowd yells and voices. Even when not at the parties there was frequently the throb of machinery, the muted beat of the music, distant thunder or just an atonal rumble in the audio. Dialogue was not always clear when subs would have helped. The subwoofer was used aggressively for the boom of the music, blasts of sound, atonal hums, the explosions and gunshots.

     The score was by Alan Brunetta while the loud electronic music is by Yellows.

    Lip synchronisation seemed fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Nothing. The feature commences after the DVD loads.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This Region All, NTSC release of Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey, seems to be the only one around except for a Region 2 Italian release (in English but with Italian subtitles).

Summary

     While Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey can be repetitive and the filmmakers yell “look at how clever I am” frequently due to the camera trickery, the story of the betrayed returning war hero without his memory is an interesting variation of the Ulysses story which has its moments of poignancy and sadness. If you can put up with the flashiness there is a good story to tell here.

     The video as the filmmakers intended, the audio is loud and aggressive. No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, October 03, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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