Cleopatra – A Test Of Patience
So in this month’s Double Dare instead of the usual 90 minutes of torture Neil decided to test my endurance by challenging me with the four-hour epic, Cleopatra. Quite possibly the modern-day version of the heretic’s fork. The four hours were daunting enough to start this dare but knowing that there was a two-hour version that was considered even worse put me in a bad place: Do I suffer through 4 hours of Elizabeth Taylor (sorry folks was never a fan) or take the shortcut and settle for the 3 hour cliff-notes version?
Well I did what any sane person with pressing personal obligations and time constraints would do:
I chose both.
I swear despite a good portion of my body being covered in tattoo and my main field of work being retail, I am not a masochist. In fact my time is very valuable to me and 6 hours dedicated to shitty film noir is not all that appealing to me. However, I’m a sucker for a challenge, be it food challenge, timed challenges, Bro challenges etc.. Say the word challenge and I’m in.
So there’s that… but Cleopatra inspired me. And now that I’m finished, I am close to unleashing a cinematic jihad on Neil.
Don’t worry loyal reader, Neil will suffer plenty. Come June, he shall learn a new definition of pain…
Cleopatra The Long And Short Of It
Cleopatra is at heart a love story. Mind you, a lengthy and sprawling, love story.
The Film depicts Cleopatra’s manipulation of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony in her ill-fated attempt to save the Egyptian empire. This threesome plays out as one of the most disturbing yet powerful love triangles portrayed on film.
Cleopatra – The Epic Version
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Cleopatra is way too long, it’s overdone, and much like the “Old World” dramas of its time, it can be a bit silly.
Cleopatra is notorious for its production issues, and being way overproduced. There was no CGI here, just hundreds upon hundreds of extras and set/wardrobe changes. Cleopatra is also known for the beginnings of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s illicit affair (perhaps that explains the long production!), and Taylor’s absolute domination over every aspect of the film. Despite the thousands of extras, breathtaking costumes and sets, it’s all about Taylor. Before Beyoncé or Whitney Houston, Elizabeth Taylor was the original Diva.
This is why Cleopatra as a film has such a bad rap; the “hype” around the film certainly detracts from the movie. I absolutely went into it with a skeptical eye, and yes I found flaws. Does it deserve the epic amount of shit that it has received?
50 plus years later in a CGI era Cleopatra still remains visually stunning and breathtaking in many ways This feat is impressive in of itself and worth sneaking a peak at this film if you have four hours to spare. Then toss in Burton and Taylor’s off-screen romance, their romance truly grows on the screen, and becomes almost palpable. This may have been a curse on the production side of things, but turns out to be a blessing to the film.
Where it went wrong
I do appreciate that the film is quite faithful to the history of events and doesn’t try to sexy the film up by playing fast and loose with facts. While this should be applauded, it leads to my biggest complaint with the extended version of Cleopatra:
I am positive that some of this is that we live in a time with shortened attention spans, and our constantly craving the next big event or explosion… but scenes such as Cleopatra’s visits to Rome and Tarsus just go on forever. There is still a ton of material that should have been left on the cutting room floor and we would have been fine. Cleopatra’s opulence, all the extras and designs, take time away from actually advancing the plot.
The film at worst is a victim of really poor editing.
Cleopatra The Original Version
Well if you think the four hour epic suffered from editing issues, one would think that the three hour version would at least address the pacing issue.
Instead Fox excluded scenes such as such as Rufio’s death and the recurring theme of Cleopatra’s interaction with the gods of Egypt, which completely disrupted the films cohesiveness, and much of the plodding dialogue remained.
In essence the scaled down “original” version felt like a high-priced Kaiju film, scenes and dialogue were choppy at best, but unlike those disjointed Kaiju flicks there’s no action to back it up. Just more inane dialogue.
Which one Should you see?
The spectacle that is Cleopatra in my opinion is worth a look if you are a hardcore movie fan or historian, however if you own a Tyler Perry or a Fast and Furious DVD stay very far away!
As for which version to watch, obviously see it as it was intended. the flow is much smoother (in comparison) and while it’s not the most entertaining affair I did enjoy watching how absurdly gaudy the film was, while not for the faint of heart (or patience) it’s worth a look.