Ban on `Ulysses' film lifted after 33 years

 

Finally, 33 years after it was first rejected by the film censor, Joseph Strick's film of James Joyce's Ulysses has been passed for cinema exhibition in Ireland. It was refused a certificate by both the censor and the Film Appeals Board in 1967.

Under the law, a rejected or cut film may be resubmitted after seven years; however, Ulysses was turned down by the censor again in 1974. The film has now been passed by the present censor, Mr Sheamus Smith, with a certificate restricting it to audiences aged 15 and over, and is expected to get its first Irish cinema release shortly.

The Joyce novel was adapted for the screen by Fred Haines and Joseph Strick, and Mr Strick, an American film-maker now based in Paris, produced and directed it.

"It was humiliating for me to have this film banned in Ireland," Mr Strick told The Irish Times from his home in Paris yesterday. "I shot the film with absolute fidelity to the book. There isn't a word in the film that isn't taken from the book."

Mr Strick, who also directed a film adaptation of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1974, said he had not been in Ireland for 25 years until a recent visit to Cork. The purpose of the visit was discussions with the Granary Theatre, where his adaptation of an Aristophanes play, Ladies' Day, opens on November 13th.

"That's how I found out how much Ireland had changed after all those years, and I decided to ask the film censor to reconsider the banning of Ulysses," he said.

Mr Strick recalled that, when it was first released in 1967, Ulysses was permitted to be shown in New Zealand only to audiences segregated by sex, and was banned outright in Australia for a short time.

At the 1967 Cannes Film Festival, he was shocked to discover that the French subtitles on the film had been obliterated with a grease pencil.

"When I went to the projection room to protest, the committee was waiting for me," he said. "I was forcibly ejected, pushed down the steps and suffered a broken foot. I withdrew the film from Cannes."

His cast for Ulysses reads like a who's who of Irish acting. All the performers are Irish, with the exceptions of Barbara Jefford as Molly Bloom and Maurice Roeves as Stephen Dedalus. Milo O'Shea plays Leopold Bloom, with T.P. McKenna as Buck Mulligan, Anna Manahan as Bella Cohen, Maureen Potter as Josie Breen, Martin Dempsey as Simon Dedalus and Joe Lynch as Blazes Boylan.

The large cast also includes Fionnuala Flanagan, David Kelly, Maureen Toal, Maire Hastings, Geoffrey Golden, Chris Curran, Edward Golden, Desmond Perry, Rosaleen Linehan, James Bartley, Brendan Cauldwell, May Cluskey, Danny Cummins, Tony Doyle, Des Keogh, Eugene Lambert, Pamela Mant, John Molloy, Clare Mullen, Ann Rowan, Charlie Roberts, Cecil Sheridan, Cecil Sheehan, Biddy White-Lennon and Tomas MacAnna.

The 33-year gap between the original submission of Ulysses to the Irish censor and its receipt of a certificate for exhibition may be a new record. Last year the film censor, Mr Smith, passed Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange for release here, 26 years after it had been banned.