Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Cleopatra (1963)


Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Julius Caesar (1953), Sleuth (1972))
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton
USA/UK/Switzerland, 1963

Seen: March 6, 2010 on VHS

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

What timing to watch & review Cleopatra (1963) and Julius Caesar (1953), back to back. Not only are they centred on the same time period, have some crossover characters but more so they were both directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Serendipitous is the word as it wasn't planned but made for great timing.

To make it even better, I enjoyed Julius Caesar (1953) but I loved Cleopatra (1963). Seeing as the Sword & Sandal Marathon is pretty male-heavy, I wanted to make sure that I got at least one femme focused film in the bunch. As the films of the marathon have had a strong leaning to either quests, leadership or both, Cleopatra is a perfect fit for this genre. She could take on most of, if not all, of the men I've encountered in the films of the marathon so far. It's thrilling to see a female character that knows exactly what she wants. No flightiness, no indecision, no playing helpless, but lots of strategy, planning, and a lot of patience. How she finds time for romance is a feat, but this is as all of her moves, executed brilliantly. Elizabeth Taylor's performance is captivating & engrossing to watch, she gets across the subtle power over everyone else so well. Also, the chemistry between her & Richard Burton is unbelievable.

A lot of content is packed into the film and you do need patience as a viewer - this film is over 4 hours long. But it's worth it, as it's epic in every way from the vast time line it covers to the elaborate sets & costumes through out. Actually, the costumes alone are worth watching it for. I would love all of the outfits Elizabeth Taylor got to wear in the film, they are beautiful and sultry and fit in all the right places.

In terms of a sword & sandals, it meets the sandals aspect more than the swords. But, even though the fighting in the film doesn't have a lot of screen time the heart of the film is really centred on the play for power and control. Add the epic nature in terms of style and length and it becomes a perfect fit to be included in the marathon.

If it wasn't so long, I'm sure it would be a regular repeat watcher. But for now, I'll save it for special occasions and watch it when I'm looking to be inspired by a powerful woman.

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it again
I recommend it as to fans of epics, historical and films with strong female characters

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans (2010)

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