11 April 2001 | patrick.hunter
The best version for those who love kitsch...
Was Demille more daring than any other director or was he just clueless? What does one say when the curtains close on Antony and Cleopatra and suddenly the screen erupts with more sexual symbols than any moment in Hollywood's history? From the phallic symbols (oars) to the yonic symbols (curtains) until finally both orgasmically mesh together in a final combination (a drummer with his drum), the scene tells us we're viewing the artistry of a kinky genius or a shameless carney.
And along with the jawdropping visuals, the film is crammed with juicy Demille-like dialog. Unlike other Demille films, this one has a wonderful cast to deliver his unique oneliners, and there are so many. My own favorites are the moments of dumbdowned Shakespeare. Instead of speaking of Cleopatra's "infinite variety" we are told she is always "many colored" and, of course, instead of "Et tu, Brute?" we get, "You? You too, Brutus?" What can you say about a movie in which Julius Ceasar says "Nope" to his senators? Nothing. One can only savor every delicious moment of camp that only a Demille could serve up.
The Taylor/Burton version is more spectacular, more intelligent, and more historical, but for those who relish kitsch--and this story always lends itself to it--this version is the best.