20th Century Fox has launched a major project to restore its classics, having already rejuvenated Five Fingers (1952), and A letter to Three Wives (1949). Now it is time for Cleopatra to be restored in 4k. To achieve this feat, it took two years of work and fifty people working on it.
When Cleopatra was released in 1963, it was the most decadent film: with a forty-four million dollar budget, thousands of extras, two directors in succession, and an extramarital affair between two Hollywood stars: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the diva, whose wardrobe cost some 194,800 dollars.
Fifty years later, it is still one of the most beautiful American pepla, that was to immortalise Elizabeth Taylor as the misunderstood and love-stricken Queen of Egypt. Joseph L. Mankiewicz transforms the life of Cleopatra from a mere history lesson into a Shakespearian tragedy: she is a woman divided between her desire for recognition and her desire for love.
Schawn Belston, in charge of the restoration of the film by 20th Century Fox, confides in an interview: "We have tried to capture the beauty of this cult film from another era, so that audiences today can appreciate its true value".
First, the studio cleaned the original negatives before digitalising them. A second restoration, the most important, was then done by computer on the digital version, which made it possible to "restore the film's original palette of colours, eliminate the imperfections, and turn back the ravages of time."
Kate Burton, Richard Burton's daughter and Chris Wilding, the son of Elizabeth Taylor, will attend the screening in Cannes to appreciate the extraordinary precision of the restoration team. Although this is the first time that Cleopatra has been presented in Cannes, its director Joseph L. Mankiewicz came to the Festival twice. The first time was in 1949 for The House of Strangers, and then in 1951, the year that All about Eve won the Special Jury Prize.
Tuesday 21 May / Salle Buñuel / 6:15 pm