Twlight Time Blu-Ray Review
Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange,
Harry Lennox, Colm Feore, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers,
Matthew Rhys, Laura Fraser and Angus MacFadyen
Directed By Julie Taymor
Color/1999/2 Hours 42 Minutes/Rated R
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 Non-Anamorphic 1080p
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA / English 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Shakespeare is a subject that many many films have touched upon in various different and modernistic ways. You had the hip and classic comedy of "10 Things I Hate About You", which pretty much made fun of "Taming Of The Shrew", a violent and stylish version of "Richard III" starring Sir Ian McKellen, the tame and comedic behind the scenes of Shakespeare himself in "Shakespeare In Love", Baz Lurmann's audicious MTV driven version of "Romeo And Juliet" starring superstar Leonardo DiCaprio and "Homeland's" Clarie Danes, Director Michael Hoffman's own whimsical version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Kenneth Branaugh's classic rendition of both "Henry V" and "Hamlet", and Al Pacino's wonderful and magnificent documentary on Richard III called "Looking For Richard", which should be used as teaching material in schools. Between 1995 and 2001 saw no less than ten films based on Shakespeare's works that met with resounding or mixed success.
"Titus" is based on Shakespeare's play "Titus Andronicus" stars Oscar Winner Sir Anthony Hopkins ("Silence Of The Lambs") as the victorious general, Titus Andronicus who returns to Rome with hostages: Tamora, Queen of the Goths (Oscar Winner Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story") and her two despicable, wild sons Chiron (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, "The Tudors", "Dracula") and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys) and then orders her eldest son to be sacrificed to appease the Roman dead. He declines the proffered Emperor's crown, nominating Saturninus (Alan Cumming, "X-Men 2"), the last ruler's venal elder son and to spite his brother Bassianus (James Frain,"Shakespeare In Love"), Saturninus demands the hand of Lavinia (Laura Fraser, "A Knight's Tale) Titus' daughter for marriage to which Titus' brother Marcus (Colm Feore, "The Chronicles Of Riddick") and his son, Lucius (Angus MacFayden, "Warriors of Virtue") strongly object to and to spite Titus, Saturninus marries Tamora to which a dasterdly plan of revenge starts in motion. Aided by the villainous snake Aaron (Harry Lennix, "State Of Play", "Man Of Steel"), Tamora avenges her eldest sons death with a series of evil plots that include the murder of Marcus' two sons, the rape and physical torture of Lavinia (in which her tongue is cut off and her hands chopped off and replaced by tree branches and then mannequin hands) by her two mischievous sons and culminating with the final act of Titus chopping off his own hand. Titus then swears revenge on behalf of himself and his brother with one final act of grand retribution that involves two of the biggest meat pies in movie history and a final act of vengeance that is almost down right comical.
The film was released in early 2000 and pretty much was buried by the studio pretty much the same way as they would bury another enjoyable and audacious project in Mike Judge's true to life comedy "Idiocracy" years later. The film was stylishly photographed by Luciano Tavoli, Director Barbet Schroeder's usual cinematographer and featured terrific production design by Dante Ferretti along with the acclaimed work of costume designer Milena Canonero, which earned her a well deserved Oscar nomination. The film's tone is was probably the major put off here which incorporates styles from the 1930's, the 1950's and some contemporary work of the 1990's which Taymor really uses this to great advantage much like Director Richard Loncrane did for "Richard III" years earlier to critical success. The movie's major flaw and for most would be two things: the running time and the violence in it. Personally those two things never really bother me when a movie has terrific acting and a good pace to it, but when this movie is slow paced at the start that makes it a little too hard to get into at first. However, it does rebound during the second half which everything starts to wrap itself up in a furious and relentless pace to which Hopkins really goes a little over the top, but in a great Hannibal Lecter styled way which gives the film the plausability it was missing from the get go. Adding to this is Elliot Goldenthal's modernist and compelling musical score that is one of his best mixing in a touch of jazz as well as his classical orchestrial work to match the settings an moods of these character and right fully gets attention in the form of an isolated score produced by the excellent Mike Matessino just like the original DVD release in 2000.
Twilight Time's latest release in their catalog is pretty much a reproduction of the solid 2 disc DVD set that Fox produced surprisingly since the film was just buried sporting the same featurette "Making Of Titus", A Q & A Session with Director Julie Taymor, and sporting all the terrific commentaries featured on the set featuring Director Julie Taymor, Actors Anthony Hopkins and Harry Lennix and Composer Elliot Goldenthal on separate tracks which were very informative about the film's production and behind the scenes work which are outstanding.
The Blu-Ray sports a specious and vibrant 2:35.1 aspect ratio which really enhances Taymor's visual style and shows off Dante Ferretti's excellent production design. However, if found the film to be a little soft and isn't quite as vibrant as the original Fox DVD which was very solid for its' time. It doesn't look like any Digital Noise Reduction or enhancements were applied, but it could just simply be that maybe it was the way that Julie Taymor had intended to shoot it. Giving it a little of a rough, raw feel and also taking in consideration that the film was shot in the latter half of 1998 on location in Italy, you have to let it slide just a bit. I can definitely understand the gripe that most people would have about it. The sound is outstanding with vivid clarity and robust at times as Elliot Goldenthal's score really gives the sound mix a terrific workout. Also on hand as usual, is a terrific booklet featuring notes on the film by the always informative Julie Kirgo, which for the money is definitely worth it.
As a whole, "Titus" is a haphazard work that is visually stunning, but a bit over the top in conveying its' message despite terrific performances by Hopkins and the ultra sexy Jessica Lange as you'd never seen her here before. This Blu-Ray should please most despite its' minor visual problems and it's very good upgrade from the original DVD set.