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Julius Caesar

Friday, May 28, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, US 1953, 120 min., 35mm)

Mankiewicz’s first film back at MGM was also the first Shakespeare adaptation out of Hollywood in nearly twenty years. The film was produced by John Houseman, who had also produced Orson Welles’s stage adaptation in 1937, but Mankiewicz opted for a more traditional approach, eschewing the modern-dress interpretation of the theatre production. Essentially a drama of men caught in the complex dilemma of political power and tyranny, Julius Caesar combines dynamism and subtlety in both its politically textured narrative and fluid aesthetic. Mankiewicz’s use of black and white instead of color inscribes the film with the feel and urgency of a newsreel rather than a costume epic, and the lack of on-screen physical violence—confined to the assassination of Caesar—is compensated by the intense expressions portrayed by a notable cast including Marlon Brando and James Mason.

 

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