In 48 B.C., Caesar pursues Pompey from Pharsalia to Egypt. Ptolemy, now supreme ruler after deposing his older sister, Cleopatra, attempts to gain favor with Caesar by presenting the conquerer with the head of Pompey, borne by his governors, Pothinos and Achillas. To win Caesar's support from her brother, Cleopatra hides herself in a rug, which Apollodorus, her servant, presents to Caesar. The Roman is immediately infatuated; banishing Ptolemy, he declares Cleopatra Egypt's sole ruler and takes her as his mistress. A son, Caesarion, is born of their union. Caesar, however, must return to Italy. Although he is briefly reunited with Cleopatra during a magnificent reception for the queen in Rome, Caesar is assassinated shortly thereafter, and Cleopatra returns to Egypt. When Mark Antony, Caesar's protégé, beholds Cleopatra aboard her elaborate barge at Tarsus some years later, he is smitten and becomes both her lover and military ally. Their liaison notwithstanding, Antony, to ... Written by
Once again I have watched the complete Cleopatra (or at least the complete Cleopatra available). In addition, because I watched the DVD version of the movie, I also was able to view the outstanding documentary "Cleopatra: The Film that Changed Hollywood". And, once again, I am all but overwhelmed by the movie. Elizabeth Taylor may very well be one of the most under-rated actresses of the last fifty years; her public private life has always overshadowed her acting ability. But it is not her notoriety that puts her in the same league with other two time Oscar winners like Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Tom Hanks, etc. In Cleopatra, as in George Stevens' Giant, she runs the gamut from adolescent to matriarch, from calculating queen to devastated lover, and rings every bell in between. But her performance alone does not make the movie. Not only is she supported by Burton, in one of his best screen performances, and Rex Harrison, in one of his best, Taylor's old friend Roddy McDowall gives the performace of his lifetime (how sad that a clerical error cost him his Oscar); we see a young Martin Landau, a young Carroll O'Connor, a young Jean Marsh, give performances worthy of anything they've ever put on screen since. The documentary points out that the original Mankiewicz cut of the film was 6 1/2 hours long and that Fox is currently trying to reassemble the film as originally cut. If they ever succeed in doing so, I would stand in line to see it in theatres and buy it on DVD the first chance I got. As a history freak, it more than satisfies; as a fan of brilliant acting, it wows! Everyone should see it at least once!
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