26 March 2008 | Bunuel1976
ROME WANTS ANOTHER CAESAR (Miklos Jancso', 1974) **1/2
To begin with, as I pointed out in my review for Jancso''s earlier 'epic' the made-for-TV TECHNIQUE AND RITE (1971) much of what constituted its pros and cons, from the heavy-going speechifying to the striking imagery, applies to this one as well. Nevertheless, it emerges to be somewhat more engaging or, if you like, tolerable than that earlier effort; incidentally, while some sources give the film's running-time as 100 minutes, the print I watched on Italian TV lasted for merely 78! Even so, we're still treated to the random intimidation of several characters (shades also of Jancso''s masterpiece THE ROUND-UP )
not to mention the baffling re-emergence of ones who had only moments before been shown expiring!
In terms of plot, ROME WANTS ANOTHER CAESAR is unusual in that it revolves around a small band of renegades within the legions of the Empire stationed in Judea; led by an intense Daniel Olbrychski, they eventually rout the current State Governor and generally proclaim themselves against any form of authority (amid the occasional mock-parade, which is yet another link with THE ROUND-UP as is, after all, the central military fortress/prison setting). This basic routine is kept up until the character played by Hiram Keller (a handsome but typically inexpressive presence) ostensibly, one of Olbrychski's rebel companions is exposed as Octavian, the heir to Julius Caesar following the latter's notoriously bloody assassination
and which, naturally, produces conflicting reactions within the outfit! Intermittently, for whatever reason, a young Arab who tags along breaks into semi-chanted oratory which is immediately translated for our benefit by an interpreter constantly at his side! By the way, the most notable other credit here is that of composer Gianni Ferrio, a "Euro-Cult" regular.
For the record, I should be able to lay my hands presently on Jancso''s THE RED AND THE WHITE (1967), via the Second Run R2 DVD, and RED PSALM (1972), on DivX. Even considering my relatively lukewarm attitude towards his two Ancient Roman 'epics', I'm tempted to purchase the affordably-priced DVDs of the rest of Jancso''s work in Italy namely, THE PACIFIST (1970) with Monica Vitti and Pierre Clementi (thought I might hesitate with respect to this one in the hope that it's given another late-night screening on TV one of these days) and PRIVATE VICES AND PUBLIC VIRTUES (1976) which, by all accounts, is a sexually explicit period drama a' la the films of Walerian Borowczyk (and, therefore, unlikely to turn up in my neck of the woods)