Maximiliano F Yofre | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shakespeare's plays are an inextinguishable source of inspiration for movie-makers. His works are approached from very different stands: as transposition to other time and surroundings as "West Side Story" (1961) and "Ran" (1985); from a very personal optic as "Titus" (2000) and "Looking for Richard" (1996) or as in the present case with a classic approach.
I've seen this movie when I was a kid, keep a very deep impression from it and remained a Brando's fan forever. I saw it again many times afterwards. I was always delighted by the play and the outstanding acting given by Brando, Mason and the rest of the cast.
This is one of the greatest Shakespeare's historical tragedies. Focuses on the last days of Julius Caesar's life, but the main characters are: Brutus, torn apart by his love to the Republic and his loyalty to Caesar and Marc Anthony, unfaltering in his love for Caesar and will to revenge his murder.
The cast (a mix of British & Americans actors and actresses) gives an overwhelming performance. First of all Brando's Mark Anthony, especially when giving his mournful speech; words are Shakespeare's the powerful way to cast them Marlon's. James Mason is equally inspired, he transmit to the audience all the storms that rage in Brutus' soul, his moral suffering and final choice. Only one little step below is John Gielgud's Cassius, the "black eminence" of the conspiracy. The viewer will also enjoy Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and Edmond O'Brian performances.
A great movie for Shakespeare lovers and general public! Reviewed by Max Yofre."
Brando shines as Antony
Man Martin | Atlanta, Georgia | 01/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Julius Caesar (1953) directed by Joseph Mankiewicz Forget The Manchurian Candidate, this movie should be required viewing during every campaign season. Watching the mob swayed from one direction to the other first by Brutus' (James Mason) speech and then by Marc Antony's (Marlon Brando) is the best warning there is on the perils of democracy. The same unshaven louts who castigate Caesar during Brutus' speech, lionize him during Antony's. In the end the crowd is whipped into a frenzy of revenge when they hear Caesar left them money and land in his will. In our day this sort of mob control has been replaced with entitlement programs. Mankiewicz, one of Hollywood's ablest craftsmen, creates a faithful adaptation of this play. One of Shakespeare's most mature and sophisticated tragedies, Julius Caesar is peopled with such complex and subtle characters, we don't know whom to root for. There is no Iago or Richard III to step forward and tell us boldly, "I am a villain." Each of the characters acts for both high and low motivations alike. Brutus, the noblest and most sympathetic of the characters, battles futilely to save the republic from the inevitable emerging dictatorship. But in spite of his greatness, he is an easy tool for the Machiavellian Cassius (John Gielgud). In a wonderfully nuanced role, Cassius preys on the ambition and vanity Brutus does not even recognize in himself. Cassius, though a callow manipulative bribe-taking scoundrel, can yet be so noble and brave. Shortly before killing himself, he tells his slave he has a final order for him, "Live free." We see beneath his self interest lies a magnanimous heart. In spite of its title, this is not the story of Julius Caesar; his corpse is just the island on which all the other characters fight. Nevertheless, it is an important role. Louis Calhern is too avuncular and fatuous to play the wily Caesar, a puzzling hole in an otherwise fine cast. As an authority figure, Calhern would be perfect to play a dim CEO from a 60's sitcom: Larry Tate of MacMahon and Tate, but not the colossus who bestrides the world. When Caesar tells Antony (Marlon Brando) he trusts only fat, well-fed-looking men, it should seem like a shrewd campaigner passing on a useful observation to a promising up-and-comer, instead it comes off like the loose-lipped worries of a dotard. A generation of movie viewers familiar with Marlon Brando only as the Godfather or the fat guy who gets it at the end of Apocalypse Now might be puzzled this man was ever considered a sex symbol. "Smouldering sensuality?" What are you talking about? In this movie, though, in which Brando won his third Oscar, we can see what made so many women melt. Before being covered by so much lard, the man had quite a physique and on screen was by turns sensitive and attractively arrogant. As Mark Antony, his tenderness at the death of his friend, Julius Caesar, is too deep for tears. During his funeral oration, he turns from the crowd to recover himself, overcome with emotion. But Brando is no sissy wimp. Even at that moment of grief, we can see him listening to the crowd's reaction, gauging their response and calculating his next move."
All Hail Caesar!!!
C. Freeman | San Leandro, CA United States | 02/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"and this magnificent production of one the Bard's most memorable plays. This movie boasts an all star cast, and each do a splendid job of portraying their characters, my favorite being John Geilgud, one of the all-time great Shakespearean actors who's Cassius is an emotional boilerplate of envy. James Mason's Brutus is his friend and exact emotional opposite: a self-controlled, even-tempered, honor-loving man. Watching the interplay of these two opposites was for me the most thrilling part of the movie. I can't imagine any actors playing these roles other than Mason and Geilgud. Also, Brando's Mark Antony was marvelous to behold. How he skillfully moves the crowd to riot was nothing less than a virtuoso display of acting that proves Brando to be the genius that he was.
If you like Shakespeare, and particularly 'Julius Caesar', but haven't seen this one yet, BUY IT, you won't be disappointed."
Riveting production of Shakespeare's Great Roman Tragedy...
dooby | 11/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a thoroughly riveting production of Shakespeare's tragedy. It boasts a stellar cast and excellent production values. I found it strange that it is touted as a Marlon Brando film when Brando doesn't actually play the central role. That honour belongs to James Mason who provides a brilliant portrait of the tormented Brutus, the one truly noble man in this whole sad affair. Sir John Gielgud is also outstanding as the envious, conniving but weak Cassius. Brando's performance, great as it is, should be seen in the context of the equally great performances of those around him. In Robert Osborne's introduction, we are told how Brando sought Gielgud's help in preparing for his role; recording Gielgud's delivery of Antony's lines, and assiduously listening to and studying from them. The final effect is electrifying. This is not the boring Shakespeare dreaded by schoolkids the world over. This is gripping, searing stuff that, as Laurence Fishburne says in the accompanying documentary, made Shakespeare "the Aaron Spelling of his day." The one sore spot was Louis Calhern's Caesar who looks more like Hollywood's caricature of a Roman Patrician than Shakespeare's intended character. But that's a minor quibble for Caesar is really just a minor figure, even though the play does bear his name.
I was delighted by the reviewer who pointed out the interpretational possibilities regarding Brutus' character and motivations. However I disagree with him when he says that the film failed in its depiction of Brutus. The reviewer's preference for a darker, more self-aware Brutus is fascinating to explore but this is a Hollywood film from the early 1950s and we should see it in that context. The beauty of Shakespeare is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. However, in the end, it is the producer who has to decide how he wants to depict the character on stage. The producers in this case, chose this particular interpretation; a relatively straightforward, clearcut view of Brutus; that of the essentially good, noble, but naive hero. It is as valid an interpretation as the one proposed by the reviewer. I agree that the darker view could make the film even more fascinating to watch. But it does not mean that the present interpretation is a failure. It is a perfectly valid interpretation in an altogther fine film. If this wonderful production can spark interest in viewers to find out more and to question further the original play, then it will have done far more than anyone could hope for.
Warner has finally made this classic film available on DVD in a fine transfer preserving its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (Full Screen). The B&W print looks largely excellent, with very good contrast and excellent grey shading. There are a few segments where flutters of dirt and nicks suddenly appear but they are thankfully rare. Film grain is visible throughout but is never obtrusive. The original Mono sound has been remastered to give a very creditable sounding DD 5.1 track. Speech is crystal clear and largely front-centered. Strangely there is also a French language track. It was bizarre listening to Shakespeare in French. Optional English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are included. There is a fine 20-minute documentary "The Rise of Two Legends," on Brando's role in this and other films. There are also trailers for 4 of the 5 films being released as part of the Marlon Brando Collection. If this interests you, you might want to consider getting the entire boxed-set because there is a substantial difference in price and quite some savings to be made."
All about Antony
Edward | San Francisco | 09/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the enormous success of "All About Eve' in 1950, the writer-director Joseph L Mankiewicz could do just about anything he wanted to do, and what he really wanted to do was direct Shakespeare. Realizing he was dealing with Hollywood, he chose the high-school staple "Julius Caesar". Something as arcane as "Titus Andronicus" would have been out of the question. Even so, the depiction of an ancient political tragedy set in 16th Century verse was hardly going to light up cash-box eyes in the front offices, and I'm sure Mankiewicz had to pull a lot of Oscar clout to get anyone to even consider such a project. Luckily, the intellectual Dore Schary had just taken over the helm at M~G~M so the picture was ultimately approved for that studio and released in 1953. (One can just imagine Schary's predecessor Louis B Mayer scratching his head, trying to figure out the connection between "Julius Caesar' and "Quo Vadis".) Obviously, it did not have a big budget, filmed in black-and-white on left-over sets. This was a "prestige" production (Orson Welles' former partner John Houseman in charge) with the emphasis on classy tone and an elegant dramatis personae. Between them, Mankiewicz and Houseman created one of the most arresting Shakespearean films you'll see outside Olivier, far superior to the 1970 version. I don't agree that Louis Calhern is mis-cast in the title role. God knows he was imperious enough playing Grandpa in some Jane Powell fluff, but here he's so arrogant no wonder the conspirators are upset. The big Shakespearean name in the cast is John Gielgud, very effective as Cassius, subtle, almost serpentine, slithering around Brutus as he tries to get him to join the conspiracy. James Mason's sterling portrayal of Brutus convinces us that the character was indeed "the noblest Roman of them all". Gielgud and Mason work particularly well together -- e.g., the argument from Act IV. Deborah Kerr is lovely and dignified as Brutus's doomed wife Portia. Picking up on Antony's adjective "envious", Edmond O'Brien (who by that time was looking a little porcine) gives us a bitter, sardonic Casca. The critics were ready to pounce on Shakespearean tyro Marlon Brando in the role of Marc Antony; but evidently he studied with Gielgud several months prior to filming, and I think he's quite credible. Of all the cast members, he's the only one who was nominated for an Oscar, which must have caused some ironic smiles. (The picture itself was also nominated.) Of course, Marlon Brando was a big stud-star of that era, and the movie's publicity was focused on him. (He lost to another stud-star William Holden, who won for "Stalag 17".) Even so, some of the character actors in the cast had had classical training; and even a couple of the stars besides Gielgud had appeared in Shakespearean stage productions (Louis Calhern had recently played King Lear in New York), so the irony can be understood. Mankiewicz encouraged Brando to bring out Antony's opportunistic side, and it's visible not only in the "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech but in the scene (a Mankiewicz touch) where Antony smugly contemplates a bust of Caesar. Talk about ambitious! Shakespeare was a natural for Mankiewicz, who liked to work in long uninterrupted sequences -- "arias" he called them -- so he could sustain a mood from the Ides of March entrance into the Forum, through the assassination, culminating with Antony's funeral oration, without a dissolve or a break in suspense. It causes a stagy effect that's difficult for today's 20-second attention spans, but for connoisseurs of fine acting "Julius Caesar" is probably the best of the Bard's Hollywood encounters."