Cult helmer Julio Bressane turns his sensual, color-filled set pieces to “Cleopatra,” a highly stylized look at the Queen of the Nile that plays like an avant-garde opera, with arias replaced by the lyricism of the Portuguese language. Largely following the writings of Plutarch, Bressane concentrates on Cleopatra’s struggle for a Hellenistic Egyptian identity independent of the Romans, though given the helmer’s penchant for fixed tableaux, auds shouldn’t expect anything remotely epic. Highly specialized fare will be restricted only to more adventurous fest programs.
Julius Caesar (Miguel Falabella) debates with advisers the perilous future of the Republic and how best to handle Egypt, while Cleopatra (Alessandra Negrini) seeks to ensure the triumph of Isis over Venus. Predictably, Caesar falls under the queen’s spell, though her heart doesn’t truly find a mate until Mark Anthony (Bruno Garcia) enters the scene. Despite striking images and occasionally enchanting prose, pic is ultimately a humorless affair: It’s hard to believe Cleopatra’s vaunted erudition when she resembles nothing more than a Playboy centerfold posing in an ancient version of Hugh Hefner’s library. Besides, didn’t Alla Nazimova do similar things back in 1923 with “Salome”?