SIMON LEVETT

Critics are having a blast with the US release of the ball-busting, three-hour-long epic Alexander.

The New York Post lampooned the film as Alexander the Not So Great. USA Today was equally blunt with Alexander the Great Dis-appointment indeed. In the Washington Post, it was Alexander the Crying Shame.

Critics tripping over to outdo each other in word play are a nightmare of epic proportions for the $190 million invested by Warner Brothers Studio in the film.

Stinker it may be, but the making and breaking of the movie isn’t likely to sink without a murmur. Director Oliver Stone overturns conventional Hollywood antiquity in films such as Ben Hur and, more recently, Troy, by focusing on the gay relationship between the world-conquering Alexander (Colin Farrell) and his childhood friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto). Gay-City News called it the most homoerotic studio-produced epic ever made.

Stone explicitly defended the bisexuality of his hero in an interview with MSNBC: Alexander lived in a more honest time -¦ We go into his bisexuality. It may offend some people, but sexuality in those days was a different thing pre-Christian morality. Young boys were with boys when they wanted to be. Homosexual relationships were an important part of the social, political and cultural landscape of the ancient Greek world, said Stone, who hired a leading historian on Alexander to work on the script.

Cinema-goers hoping for a glimpse of some flesh will probably be disappointed: it’s strictly the sort of chaste, non-physical homosexual relationship made for American television. Yet the novelty of a bisexual hero is managing to turn a few heads. The Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation welcomed the film and stated that it breaks new ground for historical blockbusters.

American novelist Gore Vidal agrees, describing it as a breakthrough in what you can make films about. Movies are always the last to register changes in society and this movie does it. Vidal would know: as a writer on the set of Ben Hur, he boasted in The Celluloid Closet of a gay subtext he had slipped into the film, much to the fury of Charlton Heston.

The timing of the blockbuster is fortuitous, with gay unions under attack in America and elsewhere. Perhaps it is fitting that in the ancient home of the love that dare not speak its name, a group of 25 Greek lawyers have threatened to sue the makers of the film for depicting the ruler as bisexual. Yannis Varnakos, the leader of the campaign, told Reuters, We have not seen the film but from the information we have already there are references to his alleged homosexuality, a fact that is in no historical document or archive on Alexander. Either they make it clear that this is a work of fiction or we will take the case further.

Credit must go to the lawyers for managing to escape sitting through Hollywood’s latest turkey.

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