Caesar and Cleopatra (2009) Poster

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Much better than I expected
newatt-26 June 2010
I rented this recently, after waiting an unconscionable time because it was always out from my local Blockbuster. Due to the fact that I am an English teacher, I see rather more filmed plays than the ordinary joe does and this was one of the superior ones. I didn't quite feel like I was in the theatre, but nor did I feel like I was watching something that didn't belong on the screen.

Plummer is old for the role, but he has all the presence of a great ruler. James was transcendent, although a little too hysterical in her more immature bits. Donaldson was remarkably suitable in this, which I didn't think he was going to be when I saw his name.

Costuming and staging were really entertaining.

Like the reviewer who didn't like it, I'm not sure what point Shaw was trying to make except for the rather broad and obvious satirical stabs at Britain, the sharpest points of which were dulled by a sort of silly sentimentality. However, I didn't feel it needed one point, particularly. It was a fine interpretation of the possible relationship between a Caesar and a Cleopatra - full of love and believable tensions.

I really enjoyed this production.
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Cinematic theater at its best
lynndavies-19 February 2009
all I can say is when will see this kind of theater on the screen again? The acting was divine and the production quality filled the screen beautifully. Every detail from the cast led by plummer was full of emotion and visceral power.

The audience I was with thrilled to every moment. This is the future of entertainment for all ages. Bravo to Stratford and Cineplex. What is next?

If you spend the time to let the performances and text wash over you, you find yourself in a the very best theater has to offer. I spent countless hours in theater in London and New York and this ranks with the most wonderful memories I have. The mix of Shaw's wit, the bravado of Plummer and sensual character of James is simply breathless.
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Not sure what I expected, but not this
rgcustomer31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard for me to separate out the particular broadcast I saw from the film itself, and the film from the play. So it's all in one for me.

I'm a fan of the Stratford Festival, but I don't go every season, and with the economy being what it is, I thought that today's "live" cinema broadcast of Caesar and Cleopatra would be a good compromise on actually going there to see a play. Given that the Stratford Festival films so few of their works, and only very rarely makes them available in cinemas, I didn't want to miss this.

My first problem with this presentation is that it wasn't "live" as marketed, and that disappointed me. At the unnecessary intermission, a 20-minute short film on the making of the movie was shown, so it became very clear that this was not a live performance, for which I paid more than double the price of a regular movie ticket. I feel I'm due a partial refund, actually.

I was impressed by Christopher Plummer's acting ability even at the age of 78. He was clearly the star of the show. Not being a previous fan of his, I would not have guessed he was much over 65. Given the material he had to work with, I think he did as good a job as could be expected. He is an old Caesar, but then he is supposed to be according to the script, particularly in relation to Cleopatra. Nevertheless, he's also supposed to be thin, and while not chubby, I wouldn't describe him as thin either. I'm not sure why the play portrays Cleopatra as a child of 16 at the time of these events, when the history seems to say she was a 21-year-old woman. Although the play only has flirting, with Cleopatra interested only in Mark Antony, history says she did bear Caesar a child. I don't know what Shaw was thinking when he made these changes (assuming this production is faithful to the play).

I did not buy Ptolemy at all. As he was Cleopatra's (half-)brother, I would have assumed he would be of the same race, but he's as pale and pasty as she isn't. And I felt that they played him as too much of a nelly fool than was really called for. I know the play was written pre-1900, but it is being performed now, and we can do better.

As for the play itself, I have to say that this is the first production of anything that I've ever fallen asleep watching, twice. I am a rather stoic individual, and that just doesn't happen to me. Ever. That's probably useful information to know, should you choose to watch this.

I can't really figure out what the point of the play is, except to see yet another old white guy magically cause things to happen while all the young, brown, and female folk muddle about in chaos. While most of the key events appear to be historically true, this might have made even the slightest bit more sense had they included either of the Prologues that belong in the play, but that didn't happen. For me, there was nothing useful to be learned, none of the characters grew appreciably, and for a comedy it wasn't even funny. There were some funny lines, but not enough to make it a comedy.

The audience in the cinema with me was a sea of blue, grey, and white hair, reminding me that I alone of all them had half my life still yet to live. It must be a generational thing, because they liked the performance a lot more than I did.

If it were up to me, for Stratford's big return to cinema, I would have chosen a popular musical or a serious Shakespearean play. Those are the two things they do best, and set them apart. To choose a Shaw play, drawing the inevitable question "Why would we go to Stratford when we could see that sort of thing at the Shaw Festival?" just seems not well thought-out, especially at a time when Stratford is intensifying its focus on Shakespeare.

My last thought on this is on the technology. 16:9 at home is wide. 16:9 at the cinema ... not so wide. I felt that they didn't really make use of the whole screen. It was like watching standard TV on a wide-screen with the bars on the sides. Given that the entire event had already been filmed, perhaps weeks or months in advance, I think it was a wasted opportunity to fill the screen.

Anyway, for all those reasons, that's why it's getting a 5 of 10 from me.
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