Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt experiences both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt experiences both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt experiences both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.
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?
- Nov 27, 2001