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General Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) returns to Rome triumphant after a long and successful war against the Goths in which 3 of his 7 sons died. As part of his victory ritual Titus orders the eldest son of captured Goth Queen Tamora (Jessica Lange) be sacrificed. Tamora, her two remaining sons Chiron (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys) and the Morr Aarron (Harry Lennix), also a prisoner of Titus, vow revenge. When Titus' corrupt and decadent son Saturninus (Alan Cumming) is proclaimed Emperor he takes Tamora as his wife. Her revenge is initiated by the rape and maiming of Titus' only daughter Lavinia (Laura Fraser) and the murder of her husband Bassianus (James Frain). Two of Titus' sons are framed by Aaron for the crimes and only upon the delivery of Titus' severed hand will they be spared. After being cruelly tricked and appearing to have gone mad, Titus sends his only remaining son Lucius (Angus MacFadyen) to the Goths with the instruction to raise an army against Saturninus.

"After Romeo and Juliet on the Beach, Richard The Third goes Fascist, A Midsummer Night's Dream on a Bicycle and now Titus Andronicus in ancient and modern Rome all at once, perhaps the most subversive way to now treat Shakespeare is to play it true to the time and place as originally written. If you like Shakespeare souped up for contemporary consumption with eye-catching costumes and production design melding the classical and the modern then Titus Andronicus delivers on all fronts. There is no shortage of incident as murder, mutilation, rape and all-out slaughter pile up and it's all exceptionally well performed but at 162 minutes the intensity becomes overwhelming. On the acting front Anthony Hopkins adds another memorable performance to his gallery as the embattled Titus, Alan Cumming is a delightfully creepy Saturninus and Jessica Lange, aged 50 and totally convincing as the late-thirtyish character she plays, is splendidly villainous as the scheming Tamora. Julie Taymor's adaptation of her own celebrated stage production never rests for a moment but perhaps it should. The dense, multicharactered story is so full of distracting design that plot coherence is threatened by the hardware packed into every frame. Nothing, including Shakespeare, should be regarded as too sacred to re-evaluate and re-interpret but this mixed bag becomes an unnecessarily hard slog by the end."
Richard Kuipers

"The first film by theatre director Julie Taymor, this adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus is a slightly facile sick joke at the expense of conventional distinctions between high art and trash culture. Here's a 'classic' play that's far more gruesome than anything by Tarentino - and though Taymor transforms an alleged tragedy into bloody vaudeville, you can't exactly call the result a travesty. It's all there in the original text - not only the gore, but much of the grotesque humour (Titus himself being an early example of Shakespeare's taste for sarcastic misanthropes). And the performances are shrewd, aside from Alan Cumming's Monty-Python-style sketch of a campy, featherweight Roman emperor. In the tradition of Orson Welles' Shakespeare films, Taymor relies on the language to provide unity and focus, while encircling each scene with all kinds of wild 'cinematic' effects: crazy angles, jazzy music, stark monumental buildings and deep shadows. Sometimes the wilfully excessive imagery works (the raped Lavinia, her hands chopped off, stands with tree branches sticking out of her wrists and blood pouring from her mouth, planted in a field like a Tim Burton scarecrow). Sometimes it really doesn't (as with the lengthy homoerotic scuffles between the Emperor's two sons, portrayed as dimwitted exiles from the British rave scene). But overall this is absorbing as drama, and (for better or worse) completely in tune with the tastes of a modern audience. It's one more example of that highly fashionable genre, the arthouse atrocity film - along with Happiness, Funny Games, The Idiots, Very Bad Things, and next month's prize exhibit, Love, Honour And Obey. These are 'respectable' movies more or less cynically designed (often under the cover of camp or 'black comedy') to exploit various kinds of horrific content: if they're quality filmmaking, you might ask, then who needs trash?"
Jake Wilson

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CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Angus MacFadyen, Alan Cumming, Johnathan Rhys-Myers

DIRECTOR: Julie Taymor

PRODUCER: Conchita Airoldi, Julie Taymor, Brad Moseleys

SCRIPT: Julie Taymor (play by William Shakespeare)


EDITOR: Françoise Bonnot

MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal


RUNNING TIME: 162 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 21, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: May 19, 2001

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