Cleopatra

(USA 1963)

Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra takes me back to high school Latin class, where I saw it the first time. One of the most expensive movies ever made—adjusted for inflation, its budget of $44 million amounts to roughly $336 million today (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056937/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv)—Cleopatra is a straightforward albeit very glamorous and maybe not entirely accurate history lesson. Everything about it, like ancient Rome, is impressive, excessive, and just plain epic. The characters are practically real-life deities, and the actors who play them—Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra), Richard Burton (Mark Antony), Rex Harrison (Julius Caesar)—are legendary. The sets are huge and overwhelming. Watching Cleopatra is a luscious Technicolor orgy for the eyes.

Is it a good movie? It kept me engaged, at least what I stuck around for (see next paragraph). Taylor injects her wry wit into Cleopatra. It’s fun and weird to see Carroll O’Connor (i.e., Archie Bunker) as a Roman senator. All that said, though, Cleopatra is not exactly entertaining.

Speaking of Latin class, Cleopatra was parsed out over a week, so it didn’t seem as long as it is: over four hours—edited from its original plan of six hours! Even the trailer is long. Fuck. Sadly, it’s too much for a school night. I left during intermission after the first segment—Julius Caesar and Cleopatra—and that is still longer than most movies today. For the record, I’m not counting this in my official tally because I didn’t stay for the whole thing. Et tu?

(Music Box) C+

Music Box Theatre 70mm Festival

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