I Claudius (series, 1976)

From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)20 Apr 12:53
To: ALL1 of 14
Mrs. D. & ! are tooling through the episodes at pace, having not seen it for (checks watch) ~40-years? Damn.

A few observations: 1. the set designs and cinematography provide an interesting, wide-screen illusion on this 4:3 [tv] format, in which characters move in and out of the picture while conversing. 2. The cast is stellar. 3. The drama and dialogue is Shakespearean. It helps to have a cast grounded in the canon, I suppose. 4. The transfer to digital is amazingly good. 5. Essentially a glorified soap, with extra killing amen.

From: graphitone20 Apr 21:06
Derek Jacobi - urgh. <shudders> 

From: william (WILLIAMA)20 Apr 22:05
One of my fave series ever. Could do with another remastering with a bit of common sense applied to the various cuts and changes on different DVD and TV releases. I believe it was all shot on video, but it could probably be improved on, even though the 2008 remaster is pretty good. Of course, in true BBC management style, some snippets were thrown away.

When it first aired on the Beeb, it took me a while to accept Derek Jacobi's overblown stammering and twitching, but it does fit well into the overall feel of the thing. 

Yes, it's a soap opera, but then the books are a soap opera script.

From: william (WILLIAMA)20 Apr 22:05
To: graphitone 4 of 14
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)21 Apr 12:44
To: william (WILLIAMA) 5 of 14
The aging fx and other makeup is spectacularly bad, but I think it's tuned to home CRT tv sets of the day, so e.g. most everyone's in near-mime whiteface. The stammering and tics are an academy award unto themselves, this was pretty daring in the day (moreso today), and there may have been showboating here and there, contributing to a heightened theatricality. It was however central to the plot (Claudius not taken seriously and so not...poisoned).

One more thing, the ladies in particular were bewigged and madeup to uncannily resemble the encaustic [hot wax +pigments] portraits on Roman mummy sarcophagi (after the Egyptian fashion), which we have several splendid examples in a museum here.
EDITED: 21 Apr 12:49 by DSMITHHFX
From: william (WILLIAMA)21 Apr 13:27
The wikipedia entry states that the series was filmed on videotape at BBC Television Centre for artisitic rather than budgetary reasons. Unfortunately the documentary used as a reference for this claim is no longer available. I can only assume that they actually aimed for a stagey, TV soap opera look, which would make sense.

Dear old Derek wasn't the only one showboating, but when you get a cast that can showboat with such panache, it's great entertainment.
EDITED: 21 Apr 13:29 by WILLIAMA
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)21 Apr 14:36
To: william (WILLIAMA) 7 of 14
Whelp, it's deffo one of the best, right up there with House of Cards but without Kev pawing the young 'uns (which was Caligula and Tiberius's gig, mercifully explicated off-screen).

There's a visual richness to it deriving equally from the archeology. and 19th C. academic paintings of 'classic' scenes (IMO)

Cool to see Captain Picard essaying a gimlet-eyed Roman assassin on the holodeck!

EDITED: 21 Apr 14:40 by DSMITHHFX
From: william (WILLIAMA)21 Apr 16:05
right up there with House of Cards

Definitely. But the Ian Richardson Francis Urquhart or Kevin Spacey Francis Underwood version?
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)21 Apr 18:07
To: william (WILLIAMA) 9 of 14
Haven't seen the Richardson stuff, but he was great in (IIRC) Gormenghast, as a loony monarch who believed himself to be an owl.
From: william (WILLIAMA)21 Apr 23:02
The two series were very different in spite of sharing (essentially) the same basic story. My question was disingenuous since they aren't really comparable. I enjoyed both of them. I did think the US version lost its way a bit and was in danger of becoming a soap opera (to go with this thread).

Ian Richardson was brilliant in Gormenghast. That said, I didn't much care for the production in spite of a raft of excellent performances and an amazing ensemble cast. 

On the other hand, I've watched I Claudius five times so far, not counting dipping into various episodes (and no John, not just the rude bits).
From: graphitone21 Apr 23:05
To: william (WILLIAMA) 11 of 14
Never liked his acting work. I've watched him in documentaries and interviews, and he's a nice affable chap, but there's something about his acting, a certain pomposity brought to his roles that suits some charactisations, especially in the Shakespearean roles (i.e. when he played the titular Richard II) but permeates into others where it's just not necessary. 

I could have sworn he played Aufidius in Ralph Fiennes' retelling of Coriolanus, which I really enjoyed, but a quick IMDB look up says Derek was nowhere near that film. Could be it's why I liked it...  :-/

From: william (WILLIAMA)21 Apr 23:38
To: graphitone 12 of 14
I know what you mean, although I think pomposity is a bit unfair. There are times when you can see him being an acTORRRR. It's an old-fashioned style that probably comes from the company he's knocked about with over the years. Gielgud had it, and so do many present day actors like Simon Callow, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen (well, them anyway). It's theatre I suppose where it wouldn't stand out so much as on TV or film.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)22 Apr 11:36
To: william (WILLIAMA) 13 of 14
This is a good point. In theatre, to effectively play a lead, one must project the character's personality -- that is to say, exaggerate it for those not in the front row seats. Before a camera, this may come across as OTT. But the best film actors I can think of offhand are grounded in theatre, and return to it regularly. This is what you may call charisma.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)19 Jun 13:55
To: william (WILLIAMA) 14 of 14
We got around to the original, Richardson version a couple of weeks ago. Turns out we had watched previously, many moons ago on the old CRT tv set. For whatever reason I hadn't remembered the name so did not connect it to the more recent, USian remake -- apart from bad boy Kev's unplanned intervention, a fairly faithful rendition of the main themes and plot points. Mrs.D tells me some aspects of which are 'loosely based' on Hamlet and Macbeth.