Movie Review By Casey McCabe
Titus Andronicus was William Shakespeare's first big hit. Over the next few centuries however, it fell out of favor and has rarely been produced. Apparently, later audiences didn't quite know what to do with a protagonist who was capable of killing his own children. Whom he loved dearly. Then to prove he was not mad, resorted to cannibalism.
In the new film "Titus," director Julie Taymor is out to prove why you must never overlook the Bard. How do we digest unspeakable horror today? Right through the tube, which is where the film begins, as a young boy being buffeted by television violence is transported to Imperial Rome to find his toy action figures have become real and the violence full of consequences. A precocious device, perhaps, but after that every word is Shakespeare's, and the consequences reflect his masterful gift for irony.
Taymor, who won practically every available piece of hardware for her production of "The Lion King" on Broadway, is not an easily daunted director. Confident enough to let Shakespeare speak for himself, she proceeds to take the film on a stunning visual trip, variously stripped down, dressed-up, and cross-pollinated with props and images spanning the millennia. In case you ever doubted that Shakespeare was timeless, Taymor gives us the candidates for Roman Emperor campaigning in dual motorized Pope-mobiles. And puts a cigarette in hands of Jessica Lange, playing the scheming Queen of the ancient Goths.
The film also stars Anthony Hopkins as Titus, and he plays it with both the meat and relish we would expect of him. But it is Harry Lennix as Aaron the Moor, one of only two black roles in all of Shakespeare, that rivets this film. Not only is the character among Will's most complex, the performance transcends all Shakespearean mannerisms. If "Titus" is once again unjustly overlooked, at least Harry Lennix better not be.
© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 01/26/00
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