(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 (—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

The Tales of Hoffmann

(USA 1951)

OMG, what the fuck is this? Yes, it’s the operatic epic of Hoffmann (though I still have no idea who the fuck he is) and three of the loves of his life. But…dude, man, FUCK!

Written, directed, and produced by famed Brits the Archers–Michael Powell and Emetic Pressburger–The Tales of Hoffman is an old school movie they just don’t make anymore. Visually, a stunning Technicolor wet dream complete with elaborate dance numbers, lavish costumes, and big trippy-ass sets. It’s serious eye candy with a major gay sensibility (I have no idea whether Powell and Pressburger were gay or not). It’s impressive for its scale alone, and certainly is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

But what the fuck just happened? Clocking in at just over two hours, I thought The Tales of Hoffmann would never end. It’s pretty, but it’s long–it seems longer than it is. For me, it was probably sensory overload with not enough plot. Did I mention, what the FUCK?

(Music Box) D