There are so many fine actors and actresses of British origin that it’s hard to pick out just a few; but John Hurt has portrayed some of the most memorable characters in the history of movies and television. His characters of Caligula, the Elephant Man, a Priest in Rwanda, an Orwellian dictator would be remembered by movie fans for many years to come. He is also one of those actors with voices that people comment on. It has been described deep and gravelling, but it’s nearly as versatile as his face. Actors with good, characteristic voices have often appeared in feature films as dubbing artists; Richard Burton was one, and it usually follows that aside from the quality of their voices these actors must be fairly well-known.
It is however not widely known that he was in an all-cat version of Romeo and Juliet, entitled Romeo.Juliet. In fame it is far, far behind the two most popular versions of the Shakespeare play: Zeffirelli’s movie starring Olivia Hussey and Baz Luhrman’s movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Romeo.Juliet was produced in 1990 and as it was not a digital movie, it’s very difficult to get hold of. It’s in moratorium, so to speak. But if you do come across it, it’s worth seeing as a very rare attempt in terms of both technology and narrative- for the narrative isn’t just a remake of Shakespeare’s work. It’s a very unique feature film, perhaps one of its own genre.
And of course an all-cat production is bound to be interesting to cat-lovers. I had never known the faces and actions of cats could be so expressive. It must have been a painful process of work that was put into getting cats at the right angle, doing the right things at the right time. It made me crave for a cat of my own so much that I began looking for one at http://www.kissablekittens.com/ – kisssable kittens. It is exactly the opposite of Cats the musical, in that it is a production of cats “acting” humans instead of humans acting cats.
Apart from the well-known storyline of Romeo and Juliet, John Hurt portrays a bag lady that rescues and takes away all the stray cats of Venice. He has always proved himself as a very convincing actor of eccentric, eerie characters (I still shudder at his dancing-mad Caligula) and it’s no surprise he can take a woman’s role.
But the very best thing about this movie is its score- much of which comes from the Romeo and Juliet score by Serge Prokofiev. As one of the best ballet music scores, it simply shines with the agility and grace of cats. Who would have thought that one of the best instances of classical music applied to film would be found in an all-cat movie? And who would have thought that cats could capture the beauty expected of ballet dancers that well? John Hurt allegedly attended the premier with the son of the Russian composer, who had high praises for the production. If only for the aesthetic side of it, I highly recommend Romeo.Juliet (1990).