Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
The growing ambition of Julius Caesar is a source of major concern to his close friend Brutus. Cassius persuades him to participate in his plot to assassinate Caesar but they have both sorely underestimated Mark Antony.
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
A massively troubled production combined with the extraordinary love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made for plenty of hype.
But what really matters nearly 40 years on is the film itself.
At this distance it is possible to see the film for what it is. A grand example of the final flowering of Hollywood.
In 1963 it seemed old fashioned compared to the excitement of European cinema and what the critics perceived as new (many of their favourite films of that era now just seem dated and pretentious).
But Cleopatra grows in stature with time.
It is far from flawless. And certainly the second half is somehow not right. Whether the missing two hours will reclaim this part of the film is yet to be seen.
But compared with Gladiator or similar modern epics, Cleopatra is a brilliant film with an intelligent script, stunning design, masterly and beautiful cinematography in 70mm (which sure beats 35mm and does justice to the intricate sets and design), an evocative and effective musical score and superb costumes and makeup.
The big three, Taylor, Burton and Harrison are extremely good and in the case of Harrison, who has many of the best lines, brilliant.
The supporting cast and especially Roddy McDowall are equally excellent.
Cleopatra may not be a masterpiece but it is a superbly crafted and beautiful film.
If it fails, it fails because of our expectations.
Sit back, put your feet up and luxuriate in a quality of film-making that you simply don't see today! .... but I have always wondered what Miss Taylor thinks of this extraordinary film?
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