When she discovers that a slave named Pharon professes his love for her, Cleopatra makes a bargain with him: she will give him ten days of "love," at the end of which he is to commit suicide. He agrees, although the queen's handmaiden Iras, in love with the slave, isn't happy with the arrangement. Later when Cleopatra is seducing Marc Antony, her relationship with Pharon is used against her, but with little effect. She allies herself with Antony against Octavius, participates in a brief war, then meets her end rather than be subjected to Roman rule. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Producer-star Helen Gardner has doubtless seen the Italian "Quo Vadis", and this "Cleopatra" runs an amazing 90 minutes for a 1912 feature (with 106 title cards!) "Cleopatra" is a case of trial and discovery in this exploratory era of American features. The first hour is filmed in the static "Film d'Art" style, save for one brief insert added probably very late in the production, and the modern viewer begins to wish that the camera were moved even just a bit closer to the stagebound action, despite the elaborate, if somewhat primitive, stage dressing. In the last third of "Cleopatra" more shots and setups are used, by far, than in the first two thirds. We also find the camera is moving closer to the actors and less of a concern is shown towards exposing the sets, costumes, and extras, resulting in an entirely more satisfying and intimate cinematic experience, though some of this section of the film is choppy in the GEH print aired on TCM. My feeling is that "Cleopatra" is a textbook example of how feature-length filmmaking helped open up possibilities towards a more sophisticated style of onscreen direction, cutting and camera setups. Gardner & co. are literally discovering as they go, and it seems much of "Cleopatra" was filmed in story sequence. By shooting using gradually smaller parts of the set, and closer to the actors, Gardner created a film that had considerably more dramatic power in the end result than was generally required by 1912 standards, and on this alone the film remains a genuine step-forward for the fledgling American feature industry.
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