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The following is only a sampling of classics-related movies in the library. Be sure to check out the catalogue for more titles.
FILMS SET IN THE CLASSICAL WORLD
This silent film from 1909 is found in the collection, The Movies Begin, volume 5. It runs 12 minutes, and includes shots of the burning of Rome and of Nero haunted by nightmares. Upon its release in America , The Moving Picture World enthused: " By common consent it is allowed to be one of the most remarkable films ever made … The picture is simply superb and it goes without saying that it will achieve enormous popularity this Fall and Winter and be referred to for a long time to come as a masterpiece." Directed by Arrigo Frusta.
Film critics even today consider this epic film to be one of cinema’s landmarks; it profoundly influenced America’s first great director, D.W. Griffith. Cabiria is a young Roman woman who is captured by pirates as the Second Punic War begins. Especially memorable for its sequence of children sacrificed to the Carthaginian god Moloch; audiences fainted at the horror. Directed by Giovanni Pastrone in 1914; silent.
The third time that an American studio released a version of the novel by Civil War general Lew Wallace, this multiple-Oscar film from 1959 was directed by William Wyler and starred Charlton Heston. Who can forget that chariot race?
This was Stanley Kubrick’s first film as director, although most of the creative force behind the movie was the result of Kirk Douglas, its producer as well as its star. The rebel slave Spartacus had long since become a symbol for social revolution when this film debuted at the start of the presidency of John F. Kennedy. 1960.
Director Richard Lester took time out from doing Beatles films (Hard Day’s Night; Help) to bring to the screen this comedy about a clever slave and his handsome, but dimwitted, young master. Based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim, and with an all-star cast of comedians that included a cameo by film pioneer Buster Keaton. 1966.
The title makes it clear that director Federico Fellini would bring his own unique stamp to ancient Rome’s first novel, the Satyricon. The basic scenario of a trio of con-men traveling around the Roman Empire remains, but Fellini wanted this 1969 film to make the ancient world as foreign to us as futuristic science fiction. Some say he succeeded too well. In Italian, with English subtitles.
A British TV series in thirteen episodes from 1976, which looks at the early Roman Empire from the point of view of Claudius, a young man thought to be mentally handicapped but who, in fact, used his wits to survive his murderous family and become Emperor. An excellent script and cast (Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, et al.) more than compensate for the low-budget sets.
The famed comic troupe makes fun of the ancient world (and movies about the ancient world) in this story of Brian, a boy born one stable down the road from Jesus’. Brian grows up to be almost the mirror image of Jesus, for Brian is a rebel against Rome who gets mistaken for a religious leader. Directed by Python Terry Jones. 1979.
Russell Crowe helped inaugurate a new era in ancient-themed movies with this Oscar-award-winning look at a family man determined to get revenge on the Emperor Commodus. Directed by Ridley Scott. 2000.
MYTHOLOGY IN FILM
French filmmaker Jean Cocteau re-envisons the mythic character Orpheus as a writer in post-World War II France. This 1950 movie contains many of the sort of cinematic "tricks" that Cocteau used in such other films of his as Beauty and the Beast. In French, with English subtitles.
Story-lines from two completely different mythical traditions -- the Greek Pandora and the Germanic Flying Dutchman -- are combined in this British film starring Eva Gardner and James Mason. Directed by Carl Lewin. 1951.
Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film of 1959. Orpheus here is a streetcar conductor who leads a samba-dance troupe in Rio de Janeiro during Carneval. He falls in love with a woman stalked by a foreboding stranger. In Brazilian Portuguese, with English subtitles. Directed by Marcel Camus.
New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard tells the tale of a woman who suddenly for no reason -- so her husband believes -- ceases to love him. This comes at the very moment that the husband, a screenwriter, begins working on a film version of Homer's Odyssey, with the faithful wife Penelope at its heart. Stars Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and famed director Friz Lang (who plays a character called by his own name). In French, Italian, and English; with English subtitles. 1963.
Animator Ray Harryhausen provided the stop-motion animation for this fantasy about Perseus and his rescue of the princess Andromeda from a horrible sea-monster. Laurence Olivier and Burgess Meredith are among the live actors in the film. Directed by Desmond Davis. 1981.
A tour-de-force of stop-animation by Barry Purves, who earlier had worked on the short films of Wallace and Gromit. Achilles is an 11-minute retelling of the Iliad, emphasizing what Homer does not: the erotic love of Achilles for his comrade Patroclus. Derek Jacobi provides the narration. 1995.
This updating of 1959's Black Orpheus finds Orpheus as a pop-music star in his native Rio de Janeiro, and his prime antagonist is not some stranger but a childhood friend who has grown up to be a drug-gangster. Very nice cinematography of dancing at Carneval. Unlike the earlier version, this one is directed by a Brazilian, Carlos Diegues. In Brazilian Portuguese, with English subtitles. 1999.
Brad Pitt is Achilles in this epic on the Trojan War. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. 2005.
Video of stage play. England's National Theatre in 1983 produced all three plays of Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy in a translation by poet Tony Harrison. Some of the conventions of ancient Greek theatre were maintained: all parts are played by actors in masks, and all of the actors are male.
Video of stage play. Amateur actors perform William Whallon's condensed version of Aeschylus' Oresteia. The production ends with an attempted reconstruction of the lost satyr-play Proteus, a fourth play which would have followed Aeschylus' trilogy on the ancient Athenian stage.
Video of stage play. An adaptation of Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, In this version by Tom Paulin, Zeus is a dictator who has taken over the State and punished Prometheus by burying him under rubbish in a junkyard at the world's end.
Video of stage play. British television was responsible for this 1984 production of Sophocles' Antigone. Juliet Stevenson played the title role; John Gielgud was Teiresias.
Video of stage play. Sophocles' play as interpreted by Jean Anouilh, the French playwright who wrote this drama as a covert protest during the Nazi occupation of his country. This is an English-language translation of Anouilh's play, performed in 1972. Genevieve Bujold is Antigone; Stacy Keach plays Creon.
Film. Irene Papas plays Antigone in this film directed by Giorgos Tzavellas. In modern Greek,with English subtitles. 1962.
Video of stage play. Tyrone Guthrie staged Sophocles' masterpiece in 1957 in Stratford, Ontario, using a translation by Irish poet W.B. Yeats and having the actors wear masks. One of the members of the chorus was a young William Shatner.
Film. Controversial director Pier Paolo Pasolini tells the Oedipus story, with an eye almost as much on Freud as on Sophocles. Opening and closing scenes are set in 20th century Italy. In Italian, with English subtitles. 1967.
Film. Gabriel García Márquez helped write the screenplay for this version of Oedipus which finds Oedipus as a newly-appointed mayor in a region of modern Columbia torn between private militias and a guerilla rebellion. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Directed by Jorge Alí Triana. 1996.
Film. Irene Papas is Electra in director Michael Cacoyannis' first foray into filming Euripidean tragedy. Cacoyannis bases his film on Euripides' version until the end, when he introduces plot twists from Sophocles' tragedy of the same name. In modern Greek, with English subtitles. 1962.
Film. Miklos Jancso gives us plenty of his signature panoramic long-shots in this socialist fable based on Euripides' Electra. In Hungarian, with English subtitles. 1974.
Film. Perhaps the finest of Michael Cacoyannis' films, we get in this adaptation of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis a powerful look at the hypocrisies of war -- and the terrible toll they inflict on the people who come to believe them. Irene Papas plays Clytemnestra. In modern Greek, with English subtitles. 1977.
Video of stage play. Early 20th century poet Robinson Jeffers wrote this translation of Euripides' tragedy of a murdering mom. In this 1982 revival, Zoe Caldwell plays the title role, and Judith Anderson (who had played Medea in the original Jeffers production) now plays the Nurse.
Film. Pier Paolo Pasolini directed Maria Callas in the title role, in a film whose first half tries to explain Euripides' play by spending time immersing the audience in the strange land from which Medea came. In Italian, with English subtitles. 1970.
Film. Director Lars von Trier gives his own horrific version of the tragedy. In Danish, with English subtitles. 1987.
Film. Michael Cacoyannis assembled an all-star cast (Katherine Hepburn, Irene Papas, Genevieve Bujold, Vanessa Redgrave) for this English-language movie of what happens in the days after the fall of Troy. 1971.
The military junta ruling Greece in 1972 approved the production of this film version of Aristophanes' comedy because they appreciated the fact that the country's film industry was looking for inspiration in the nation's glorious past. Apparently, the dictators were too dense to realize the subversive nature of Aristophanes' satire against soldiers and the "traditional values" they imagine they uphold. Directed by Costas Kazakos.