Friday, June 29, 2012

The Queen of the Nile in L.A.: Trying to Unravel the Mysteries of Cleopatra

NOTE: This post is an updated reprise of the February 17 item we did to celebrate the arrival of Cleopatra in Los Angeles.

The real Cleopatra VII has been so used and abused by the cinema (we thought we'dnever have to say that) that there has actually been an alternative urban legend about her that has been hard to shake off in the mind of the general populace. Here was a woman who was so powerful and influential that she held the fates of many nations and cultures in her hands -- and was revered, worshipped, feared, distrusted, loved and rejected during her reign (the downside was that she married her brothers and then killed them--along with her sister and a whole host of family members--so you can see why Hollywood wanted to "glamorize" her instead of showing the sordid side of being a ruler in the not-so-good-old days!).  But all that aside, another Cleopatra is slated for the big screen -- this time with Angelina Jolie trying her hand at portraying the historical temptress under the direction of David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who promises to give us something closer to the real deal (we'll see, won't we, kids?).  At least with the current exhibition in Los Angeles at the California Science Center, what they promise is to show us some amazing artifacts weighing 30 tons in total (!) -- including two 16-foot granite statues from the 4th to 3rd centuries B.C. The exhibition is organized by National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International, a division of AEG Live, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (we just adore Dr. Zahi Hawass)  and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.  To add to our knowledge on the queen of the Nile, we're reading Cleopatra: A Life by award-winning author Stacy Schiff -- and all we can say is that this is probably the most in-depth account of what it was like to be living back in those sword-and-sandal times -- and while the book starts out somewhat a bit on the facts and figures side, the more you get into the book, the more Schiff unfolds exactly how powerful and influential Cleopatra was (and you can read about all the unfortunates who were disposed of along the way -- but, hey, it wasn't easy staying in power of the richest nation in the ancient world). So there it is, you have your choice -- films, books or exhibitions. But whatever is said about her, the fascination with Cleopatra will continue as it has throughout the centuries.
Photo collage by Greg Firlotte