24
Jul
11

“Julius Caesar” (1953)

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Co-stars: James Mason (or God to some), John Gielgud, Louis Calhern

Awards: BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor

Character: Mark Antony

Let me preface this by saying that my experience with Shakespeare is incredibly limited. I read the first act of Romeo & Juliet, the first few scenes of Macbeth, and used spark notes for my school essays. Film wise, I’ve typically enjoyed modern re-interpretations of his work (10 Things I Hate About You, O, The Lion King), but not all of them (Romeo + Juliet). Therefore, I may be a poor judge of this film as a Shakespearean adaptation, but I will do my best at analysing the other elements.

For close to an hour, we see a very minimal amount of Brando’s character, Mark Antony. Of course, when he is on the screen, he’s wearing one of those tiny Roman skirts, and not much else. So there is that. The rest of the hour is spent on the Senate plotting Caesar’s death, and Brutus, played magnificently by James Mason, grappling with the morality of it all, and trying to decide if their actions are correct. They obviously decide that stabbing Caesar multiple times is in fact, the right thing to do, so that is what they do. Caesar himself is established as arrogant, a man who believes he is the king of Rome, when Rome is still in fact a republic.  This is why the Senate kills him- they believe he is a threat to Rome as a republic, and they wish to keep Rome dictator-free.

After all of that plotting, and all of that stabbing, Marc Antony sends his servant boy (serf? whipping boy? young “Greek” boy?) to the senate, stating his faith in the Senate and asking if they will hear him out. The Senate, who too must be noticing the painful lack of Brando in the film thus far, say yes, and soon Antony rounds the corner and struts into the Senate chamber. He is no longer wearing his tiny Roman man skirt, in favour of a long and flowing Roman man dress, with an understated man broach for an accessory. He pledges his faith and allegiance to the Senate, and then requests to eulogize Caesar at his funeral, as Antony has been a close follower and friend to him. Brutus allows this, but only after he speaks first, and only if Antony carries his body out to the people of Rome. Of course, after the Senate leaves the chamber, leaving Antony with Caesar’s body, his attitude shifts, and it turns out Brutus has made a fatal mistake by letting Antony speak.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. While I could write another paragraph or two thoroughly kissing Brando’s ass without a criticism, without really knowing the ins and outs of Shakespearean acting, I figure it best to just SHOW what he is capable of as an actor. I’ve refrained from showing key scenes in my previous posts because I believe that they are treasures that ought to be witnessed in the full context of their films. However, in this film, this soliloquy serves as the majority of Brando’s screen time.

After appearing in Streetcar, and obviously based on his own diction, Brando gained a reputation as a mumbler. People were sceptical that he could pull off a Shakespearean role. This must have been before the universal acceptance that he was the greatest film actor of all time. He proved the naysayers wrong though, as he speaks clearly, confidently, and sounds as British as the Brits in the film. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a second BAFTA award and a third Oscar nomination. His performance is considered masterful, and the film has gone on to be considered one of the best, if not the best, Hollywood interpretation of Shakespeare ever by fans and critics alike. No smoke up anyone’s ass, these are simply the facts.

"Bitches think I can't do Shakespeare. Bitches love my Shakespeare."

Quotes: “O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth / That I am meek and gentle with these butchers.”

“Yet Brutus says he was ambitious/ And Brutus is an honorable man.”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;  I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

Recipe for Caesar salad dressing without anchovies

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"He's an angel as a man and a monster as an actor."
- Bernardo Bertolucci

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