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Sopranos on the Tiber

BRIAN BETHUNE August 29 2005
BACK TALK

TV

Sopranos on the Tiber

BRIAN BETHUNE August 29 2005

TV

BACK TALK

Sopranos on the Tiber

BRIAN BETHUNE

One of the charms of pop culture is how something, large or small, catches its eye in independent yet simultaneous ways: Ancient Rome, for instance. First there was Empire, the June ABC miniseries with a family-friendly account of the murder of Julius Caesar. Then, Oxford scholar Peter Heather’s erudite The Fall of the Roman Empire became a surprise bestseller. Now there’s Rome, a BBC-HBO co-production to be shown in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central starting Aug. 28. It offers an adult-in every sense-take on Caesar’s life and times. Hollywood-style realism rules: slaves are always present in upper-class life, from sex acts (they wave fans over the couple) to plotting

assassinations; the fact that in real life such events don’t occur every two minutes is happily ignored. Whenever Rome finds the pace flagging, it throws in an out-of-nowhere sex scene or a throat-slitting: on his way to Rome on official business, Marc Antony pauses to rape a shepherd girl, who seems more bored than traumatized. It all adds up to a kind of classical Sopranos, with Roman noble families carving up the empire like the wastedisposal business. But fine acting, especially from Ciaran Hinds (Caesar) and Polly Walker (Atia) and gorgeous sets join the overthe-top plot to make Rome hugely entertaining. BRIAN BETHUNE