Just like everyone else, I watched Rome on HBO. It was good fun, like a well made popcorn movie such as the Bourne Identity. I, Claudius is something different entirely. It has very much a theatre feel to it. Very stagey. The actors are all veteran theater actors. Whereas only Ciarán Hinds as Julius and especially James Purefoy as Marc Antony really put on command performances in the HBO series, there are many in I, Claudius. I do understand that they are not exactly comparable. The historical arc of Claudius is broader and longer than Rome, but they are still of a kind and I need a contemporary comparison to put into perspective how spectacular I, Claudius really was.
I, Claudius was besotted with great performances beginning with the great classical actor Derek Jacobi as Claudius. My favorite, and a scene stealer extraordinaire, was Siân Phillips as Livia. Astonishingly brutal, perfectly poised and impossible to take your eyes off of, she is more than just a villan, she may be the savior of Rome, it is hard to tell. She is certainly convinced of it, but like the Clintons, she thinks that only she has the answers, and so eliminates everyone in her way. A sort of sociopathology that is fascinating and terrifying all at once. Then there are the young lions of the stage, John Rhys-Davies, Patrick Stewart, and a poisonous John Hurt as Caligula.
Almost every performance is pitch-perfect and true acting in the sense that doesn’t exist very much anymore. I can imagine that some folks might be initially put off by the stagey-ness, but if you give it a chance you will become completely engrossed. This will be the first time I see the show/movie and then read the book.
The only gripe is that the DVD transfer wasn’t great (Criterion Collection, please) for sound.
A piece of dramatic art presented as television. I already feel like I need to watch it again, I’m going through withdrawal. This is Fucking-A awesome and vlm approved.