Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Babylon revisited

I was fascinated to see details of a German Blu-ray of Oliver Stone's 2004 opus ALEXANDER. There were several versions released - with the 'gay stuff' taken out, or ramped up - depending on what one heard, including a Director's Cut, but this promised to be something else: ALEXANDER - REVISITED (The Final Cut), and indeed it is. Having recently acquired Blu-rays of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE LEOPARD, GANDHI, CLEOPATRA, 55 DAYS AT PEKING etc. I simply had to add an Alexander blu-ray to the collection.

Was it really ten years ago that Oliver Stone delivered his magnum opus? - a visionary director giving us his view of the great ancient conqueror, and the howls of derision and incomprehension with which it was received (there are over 1,300 conflicting opinions on it over at IMDB). A lot of the critics panned it too, so I knew it would not be around for long, but caught it on a giant screen and got the later dvd. As an Alexander and ancient world and epic/peplum fan from way back, there were lots in it that I loved. I had no problem with Colin Farrell who looked the part, and the CGI reconstructions of Babylon and Old Ptolemy's Alexandria were terrific. 
Richard Burton though in his 1956 rather turgid ALEXANDER THE GREAT had Fredric March and Danielle Darrieux as his warring parents Philip of Macedon and Olympias, here Val Kilmer and Angelina Jolie are not quite in the same league, but it all looks stunning, and the likes of Brian Blessed and Christopher Plummer also pop up, and Jared Leto is an interesting Hephaistion. 
America though it seems was not ready for a gay or at least bisexual hero - but hey things were different in the ancient world, and Stone was not going to give them another Superhero comic strip. This is a movie made with passion, and a feel for the ancient world (respected historian and Alexander expert and author Robin Lane Fox was advisor, his biography of Alexander remains the best for me), as I have detailed in my previous reports on the film - Alexander label. Right: Darrieux and Burton in the 1956 ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Looking at it again now, it is fascinating to see the changes. It is no longer a linear narrative as the giant battle of Gaugamela comes right at the start, after Ptolemy's introduction at Alexandria, before the flashbacks to Alexander's youth in Macedonia, and we go backwards and forwards from Alexander's childhood to events in the Hindu Kush and India, with that other mesmerising battle. 

As Old Ptolemy begins the narration: "Our world is gone now. Smashed by the wars. Now I am the keeper of his body, embalmed here in the Egyptian ways. I followed him as Pharaoh, and have now ruled 40 years. I am the victor. But what does it all mean when there is not one left to remember - the great cavalry charge at Gaugamela, or the mountains of the Hindu Kush when we crossed a 100,000-man army into India? He was a god, Cadmos. Or as close as anything I've ever seen". 

Vangelis's score is still terrific - there is even an intermission with music, the battles are amazing and more visceral, the scenes in Babylon and in far off India amaze too. Its a film of astonishing riches, which one can return to ..... 

1 comment:

  1. I loved this when I saw it and loved it again on the director's cut DVD. Not sure I will go for a blu-ray version though, at least not until the price comes way down!