Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Caesar and Cleopatra (Gabriel Pascal, 1946) B-

Forget the MGM-lite spectacle and Pascal's tedious and uncinematic direction: the real reason to see Caesar and Cleopatra is for Claude Rains' and Vivien Leigh's dynamic performances. Just when you think you've seen it all from these two, they surprise you yet again with the depth of their skills. Rains makes his Caesar instantly likeable and charms us into understanding why Cleopatra falls under his spell. He acts as a sort of Henry Higgins, transforming the demure and innocent Cleopatra into the glamorous, authoritative Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. The beginning of Leigh's performance is a little strange. Seeing her as a naive waif after Scarlett O'Hara was a bit of a shock. It isn't until Caesar takes her under his wing, when she starts combining the naivity with the hardness of the older woman, that it becomes a full fledged performance. The way she combines these polar opposites and switches them on and off at the drop of a hat is astounding.

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