Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie of the Week - Ben-Hur

This week’s movie is Ben-Hur (1959).

The epic is about a wealthy Jewish man, Judah Ben-Hur, who is double-crossed by a Roman Tribune, and old friend, and made a slave. He vows to return to his land and have his revenge. The story is set in the time of Jesus Christ’s life, and the political and religious upheaval serves as the backdrop. Winning eleven (of twelve nominations) Oscars, the film is directed by auteur William Wyler (one of my favorite directors) based on the novel by Lew Wallace. Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry adapted the story for the screen. It features a wonderful score from Miklos Rozsa (who also did great work on Spellbound), cinematography from Robert Surtees and production design from Vittorio Valentini. Yakima Canutt directed the second unit and was the stunt coordinator. He directed the chariot race scene, which Wyler called one of the greatest cinematic achievements he had ever seen. The cast is also very good. Charlton Heston stars, giving one of his best performances. Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith and especially Stephen Boyd are all also great. What makes the film great is its epic scale and narrative. Yet, it has very specific and emotional personal scenes for its characters. It is also not heavy-handed in its handling of religion. It is a cinematic masterpiece and well worth the look for those interested in seeing the best and most iconic films in cinema’s history. Check out the trailer.

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