Sunday, February 21, 2010

the soup is hot, the soup is cold

I am not a fan of epics. I just can't enjoy all that fancy fighting and valour in skirts, armour and something other than a bulletproof vest. Since history is often distorted, I can't even expect to get information wrapped in entertainment. This means that the only reason I set my butt down to watch Joseph L. Mankiewicz's epic peplum Cleopatra would have to be masochism. This was the restored 4-hour cut (the opening and closing overtures might contribute a few more minutes) and what scares me is that this came from an original 6-hour cut that Mankiewicz had hoped -- wisely, I must say -- to see as two 3-hour pieces, Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra. The names make more sense than the title of this elephant. It's a problem much like that with Inder Kumar's Raja (where we were all relieved that the film was not as much about Sanjay Kapoor at all).

The lines caught my attention more than anything else: there's innuendo, sarcasm (perhaps unintended), chauvinism (were she not a woman one would consider her to be an intellectual) and even my breasts are full of love and life; my hips are rounded and well apart; such women, they say, have sons. There is promise of a different kind of humour in lines like officially divine, at last, but it would seem that one would have to turn to the Carry On team or Monty Python to milk that cow. Cleopatra's when i am ready to die, i will die presages the Oracle in The Matrix series (or perhaps, the Oracle was Cleopatra in some alternative world).

At some point, I started seeing political allegory in the film. I started thinking of the Romans as the US of A meddling in the affairs of other countries. I couldn't think of an entity in the present day to match Egypt as it struggles to protect its art from the Romans and tries to convert its advantage in supplies to one of power. Some of the dialogue would fit rather well in a modern-day adaptation: there is no such thing as an unnecessary war, the way to prevent war is to prepare for it. If someone takes this idea to fruition, I just hope it's with a film that's not as butt-unfriendly as this one.

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