Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton star as the Queen of the Nile and her Roman consort Marc Antony in this last of the extravagant Golden Age historical epics, which is still a prime contender for the most expensive film ever made.
NEW DIGITAL RESTORATION!
A momentous screening — presented here in a new digital restoration — of a film as infamous as any in the history of cinema: Cleopatra, which almost sank its studio when its budget burgeoned from an already substantial $2 million to an astounding $44 million. Awarded a record-breaking $1 million fee to embody the eponymous Queen of the Nile, Elizabeth Taylor added to the impression of wanton decadence with her high-profile extramarital affair with co-star Richard Burton, which launched the brand known as “Liz and Dick” and brought vilification from the press, the floor of the US Senate, and even the Vatican. “Breathtaking” pales as an adjective to describe the film’s epic processionals and lavish sets and costumes; Taylor appears to be weighed down with a few kilos of jewels and an immensity of make-up (a too-muchness that inspired Andy Warhol in his first foray into Liz images). Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz — who manages to transform what could have been an anonymous spectacle into another of his incisive accounts of the decay and downfall of a dynasty — famously claimed that Cleopatra was “conceived in a state of emergency, shot in confusion, and wound up in a blind panic,” but the film still looks tremendous today. As Andy would say: Fabulous!
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