Bloom Movie Review

This latest attempt to translate James Joyce's Ulysses to cinema (the first attempt was Joseph Strick's misfire back in 1967) again goes to show that literature is a completely different and often incompatible art form. Joyce's novel is a virtuoso of language, rich in melodic temperament, lewdness, profundity, metaphor and Homeric references. It elevates the mundane events of a single day in the life of three Dubliners to something epic; but shown onscreen it reduces Joyce's handiwork to simply portraying mundane events.

A Jewish everyman, Leopold Bloom (Stephen Rea) wakes up on the morning of June 16, 1904, goes through his day running various errands, nearly gets into a fight with a one-eyed drunken citizen (Patrick Bergin), has a few earthy encounters with women on the beach and whores in the brothel, doesn't think about his wife (Angeline Ball) cheating on him that afternoon, and becomes a father figure to a young artist (Hugh O'Conor), whom he saves from getting into trouble with Dublin riff-raff.

Those events might have been made into a credible movie if director Sean Walsh made bold and experimental cinematic choices to reflect Joyce's bold and experimental literary ones; but Bloom is a tepid and dull affair shot on video and looking very much like a made-for-television PBS exercise. The score is flowery and forgettable; the images flat and unenergetic. The performances are credible, but it's mostly actors wandering around while Joyce's dialogue floats around them in voice-over.

The only section that takes on any dramatic force is the infamous, hallucinogenic Nighttown sequence, where Bloom takes on various guises (male, female, regal, peasant) and drifts in and out of a surrealistic courtroom. It's a more lively section of Bloom, but nothing you haven't already seen Bugs Bunny tackle. And indeed, some of those WB cartoons have more to do with Ulysses than this Bloom does -- they bend time and space and are afloat in reference points. They're also more for the common people, something I believe Walsh aspires to. But he only succeeds in simplifying Ulysses, not extracting meaning or emotion from it. He's sucked the blood from the tone and left us the stone.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :


Bloom Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2003


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