Titus (1999)

(Release Date: December 25, 1999)

Incredibly Scary Movie, but not for all tastes!1/2

Horrifying and Accurate Shakespeare

My pie-free head!!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Instead of writing a whole new review, I thought I'd share my original thoughts on Titus from 1/22/00 11:04 PM! I tailor-made this for my learned Shakespeare Professor, so pretend you're him... or pretend you're Napoleon... what do I care?

My Dear Friend Dr. Lake,

I have just last night watched Titus, the new Fox Searchlight motion picture based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. It stars Jessica Lange, and Anthony Hopkins, and was adapted for the screen and directed by Julie Taymore.
Four and 20 Blackbirds? No... TWO HEADS!!!

My opinions of the film are as follows:

This is a great adaptation, first of all. The script has remained virtually intact, and the acting is incredible. The setting is Rome, but not just ancient Rome. As in Branagh's Hamlet, and Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet the setting is updated to include more modern machinery. The difference is that this is a mixture of past and present combining Togas and Armani alike while blending tanks, and cutlasses seemingly to show that Jonson was right in his assertion that Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time. All time seems well represented in Titus.

As a sort of silent Greek Chorus is the boy, Young Lucius [Osheen Jones], who appears in almost every scene that the Andronici are featured in, and some that they are not in. A first he seems to be a boy of the present ripped back into Ancient Rome, to act as the eyes of us, the audience, but as the film progresses the separation of centuries becomes more fragmented, and the boy begins to speak, I had to wonder if he was ever intended to be anything but Young Lucius. He is both the first character we see on screen, and the last. Primacy and Recency! I won't tell you what he is at the beginning and at the end! I want your opinion when you see it.

I would love to tell you that Anthony Hopkins is in rare form as Titus himself, but the actor is so fantastic in all his work, particularly this one, that you ten to forget he is an actor at all. He IS Titus Andronicus. Every swing, every move, from his Lear-like ramblings, to his Richard III-like night fantasies he is on he money. He remains spoudaious even when he must turn against Saturninus, and comes more of a Godfather type of character to his gang of Fedora-wearing, and Bat-wielding Andronici. As in the play, you don't always agree with him, but you see he does what he does out of a General's duty!

Hopkins shows this every step of the way, and truly shows a tempered steel general with emotions held in check by a battle-hardened heart. When the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and he begins to plot his re-re-revenge, you cheer him on every step of the way, like McKellen in Loncraine's Richard III. Just wonderful.

Jessica Lange is wonderfully Nasty as Tamora. She is a broken vase as she watches her eldest son die, but moves on to be hard and seamy as the Empress who plays with the Andronici like Chess Pieces. You can appreciate her as an actress very well, but you sure don't mind when the character is dispatched. The audience actually clapped when the Pastry was sat at the (ha-ha) HEAD of the table for her to feast upon. Just Desserts got a whole new meaning!

I do not know the name of the actor who played Aaron the Moor [note: it was Harry J. Lennix], but he was remarkable! You hate him as the villain he is, but must marvel at him for many of these reasons! He's almost to be cheered for in a black-comedic sort of way, but he's SO wittily nasty that you find yourself sneering and giggling at his (Shakespere's) witticisms.

Lavinia (Laura Fraser) was so very fine that she showed in her face every emotion she must have felt, primarily her horror, and frustration at not being able to communicate her emotions.

Saturninus, or Saturnine, played by Alan Cumming, a one-time James Bond villain (of a relatively minor scale) is foppish and fickle! He is an appetitive sort who thrives on sex and fun, not allegiance to Rome. He is a worthy opposite to Titus and it is easy to see why and how he is led by Tamora. He is power hungry for one apparent reason: he can have it his way! He is pernicious and whiny. He does a great job! He's fun to watch as well, but I cannot imagine anyone cheering him .

All in all, I'd say it's a fantastic work. I would see it even if you would have to travel a little to do so, as I think that it is best viewed on the big screen. I know that there must be some flaws to speak of but I can't think of any. It is a bit garish and gory at times, but it never delves into the melodramatic acting and MTV flash of Luhrmann's R & J (and it has strong actors to boot). You told me once that the first time you saw Branagh's Hamlet that you loved it, but each subsequent time you liked it less. I may have to see this a few more times to pick up the problems, but as of now I am terribly impressed!

I doubt it has come to Shreveport yet, but if you do get the chance to see it, please tell me your opinions! I wish we could discuss this in the classroom setting. Please let me know how all else goes with you and yours! Thank you for your time! God Bless!

J.C. Maçek III

(PS: Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Titus! Click below and write me with your opinions!)

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Titus Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is responsible for his own views, and, of course, for his rather unique recipe book acquired from Mr. Andronicus Himself!

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