Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#100: Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston, 1959)

This is the sort of movie I'm watching this list for. There was a time in classical music when they thought they could actually make perfect music. It was called Baroque, some of the most famous composers from the time being Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. I think there was a baroque sense about movies of this era, with the technological advances of color and camera speeds making it possible for filmmakers to do anything they could imagine. They wanted to make the perfect movie.

There are many things I can say about this. The first is that I am a big fan of Charlton Heston epics. That's probably why I love to watch the one-man-to-save-us movies of Keanu Reeves and Will Smith. Hest0n did it first, and he was magnificent. Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, Ben-Hur, and many more starring a magnanimous character of strength and passion against the forces of evil, with endings that surprise and remain.

The movie is 3-1/2 hours long. That's like 2 movies. It took me 3 days to watch. That's alright, I like to push myself with long things. I read Don Quixote a couple of years ago. Epic tales are by nature lengthy.

Seems there was still, at that time, a real reverence for the Christ, so that we never saw his face and he never spoke. Other characters had to relay his words to each other for the screen. They were all direct quotes from the Bible, so they were not completely in flow. The ending is predictable, even though it seems like they'll go another route about 10 minutes before the movie actually closes. It's very interesting that the entire movie was building to its second title, A Tale of the Christ.

Upon looking that up, I even see that it was a remake of a 1925 movie. You learn something new every day. That makes even more sense out of this baroque feel I described earlier.

Anyway, the chariot race is worth the hype. Lucas was trying to do this in Star Wars: Episode I, but the effect of the race is the fall and rise of one competitor at the hands of the other and the hatred each has, not the wager. This race had great complexity, it MEANT more. Also, the great sea battle was pretty spectacular. Like I said, I'm a fan of Charlton Heston epics, and this affirms their place in cinematic history. It did fall 28 spots on the list in the last 10 years, which is probably due to the current cultural swing away from religion and happy endings. Eh, the tale of Judah Ben-Hur is fanstastic. Glad I watched this one.


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