4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
an extravaganza potboiler of mythmaking
, 24 May 2012
This review is from: El Cid (Two Disc Deluxe Edition) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
There is no doubt that this is a good film: the acting, the plot, and the themes are strong, the sets and props are wonderful. You can imagine you are in medieval Spain, with its jousts, wars with the Moors, and wily courtiers. It is also a good place to spark an interest in history, not because it is factual but in order to understand the truth behind the myth. It is a good portrait of a reluctant leader, thrust into greatness and growing into the role. Finally, the values in it - tolerance of diversity, seeking the truth, and doing the right thing regardless of the personal price that must be paid - are laudable and worth discussing.
However, it lacks subtlety of character: the heros and those redeemed do not even seem all that human, when compared to, say, the personal struggle for faith by Ben Hur. Moreover, the dialogue is laden with platitudes - "honor", "God-given king", "glory", etc. - and is flat and utterly lacking in the poetry of language that it is the stuff of great writing. In short, instead of suspending my disbelief and becoming engrossed in the story, it seemed such a blatant product of "Hollywood", even though it was filmed in fascist Spain. When the glitz and highfalutin verbiage are brushed aside, this is a standard potboiler.
The film seeks to create a myth about the Cid, a medieval knight who shows mercy to moslem forces and gains their loyalty. Based as it is largely on Racine's play, he kills his future father in law in a matter of honor and thereby is estranged from his fiancee until his pure heart and loyalty to what is right win her back over. In the meantime, as an exile he engages in civil war against a sleazy king and then against invading North Africans. As a martyr in the end, he transforms his ancient adversaries into better men and enshrines himself in legend. This largely works, but expecting anything beyond what is basically a romantic melodrama is too big a stretch for me.
As a bluray, the images are spectacular. However, I found the sound too loud, particularly the blaring trumpets of the heavy musical score. The extras are also predominantly the publicist fluff one expects in these things, but there was an interesting documentary on the producer that is critical and honest; I learned that he was more or less a con man, unable to manage money or relationships, but capable of extraordinary networking, and indeed successful with this film, at least, which is rightly regarded as a classic epic. It does have one laughable extra feature, a kind of lecture by John Bevere, who is a fundamentalist spewing the crudest patriotism and twisting the values of the film to his "vision"; for example, he says he bars his kids from watching most PG films (I suppose like Home Alone) because they would teach them "to disrespect their parents", but thinks El Cid is his kinda film.
Recommended as good fun. Just don't expect it to be art and leave your worldly cynicism behind.
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