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Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus(1968)

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  • Burton's Film Is Ripe For Rediscovery.

    • Chip Kaufmann
    • 11/10/08

    Back in 1967 when this film was first released, critics jumped all over it as just a Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor vanity project which it was but that's all they saw. Now that Dick and Liz have been supplanted by Brad and Angelina, the film is ripe for rediscovery and there is much to discover here. The beauty of Christopher Marlowe's play lies in the poetry of the lines and the philosophical and theological points the playwright raises. This Oxford University production which Burton co-directed captures its stage origins but is cleverly opened up in a number of ways which turn it into a fascinating cinematic experience thanks to an imaginative use of lighting, beautiful cinematography, and a haunting musical score by Mario Nascimbene (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.). And then there is Richard Burton.His intense portrayal of the title character is a joy to behold and serves as a vivid reminder of just what a charismatic performer he was. His glorious voice speaks the Elizabethan text as if it were everyday conversation but with a power and conviction that must be heard to be believed (thanks to the optional DVD subtitles you can follow along as he speaks if you wish). The rest of the cast is made up of members of the Oxford Dramatic Society and they fufill the other roles satisfactorily with Andreas Teuber an absolute standout as a melancholy Mephistopheles. Last but not least there is Elizabeth Taylor. She is required to do nothing more than look beautiful in various guises (she has no dialogue) but she makes her presence felt throughout considering how beautiful she was back then. Chances are no one will redo Marlowe's play on film anytime soon and so there is even more reason to celebrate this version which clearly shows what the play has to offer as a great precursor to Shakespeare and how to make a major film on a minor budget.

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