Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Unhand that Man! Hold your tongue!

Titus (1999) isn't quite a horror movie, although there are plenty of killings and a bit of cannibalism. It's Shakespeare for goodness sake. But this isn't polite Masterpiece Theater. It's Julie Taymor.

It is based on Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's early tragedy. It is a tale of honorable general Titus coming to great grief after he sacrifices the son of Tamora, conquered Queen of the Goths. But Taymor starts with a boy eating cereal, watching tv and playing with war toys. As his play gets more violent and frantic, he is finally grabbed by a Roman soldier and taken to the scene of Titus' triumphal procession with his Gothic prisoners. He must sacrifice Tamora's son no matter how she begs because it is the Roman way. Even though some of these Romans wear togas, some trenchcoats.

Everything Titus does is out of honor. He rejects the imperial crown because he believes it should go to the old Caesar's son, even though he is a thug who demands the hand of Titus's beloved daughter. He even kills his own son who tries to prevent the marriage. He lives his life by what is honorable, proper, and best for Rome. The result is disaster, revenge, and tragedy. This includes rape and dismemberment, hand amputation, blinding and the climactic dinner scene.

We get Shakespeare's grandeur, the gore of an Elizabethan revenge tragedy, and Julie Taymor's surrealism - in a very different vein than Across the Universe (heh-heh, "vein"). Anthony Hopkins plays Titus, as is proper for film's favorite cannibal. Jessica Lange plays Goth queen Tamora, giving it everything she's got. We also liked Harry Lennix as Tamora's secret Moorish lover.

It plays quite long, but it is always beautiful. Recommended.

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