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Ron Reed

The best Shakespeare on film

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"Do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings... It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it."

biggrin.gif I got a good kick out of this thanks.

Basically though, without veering too far into "Bloom Country", I generally prefer Shakespeare that is close to the original text. I mean, let's face it, the stories aren't the thing that sets Shakespeare apart from so many others (people had being doing the stories of R+J and Hamlet for years and years), but it's his language that I really appreciate. Which is why I like Brannaugh's version, with it's bloated length and all. He had the guts (some would say audacity) to present the play in it's entirety. Also, for me, Brannaugh was so much more believable as Hamlet than Mel (not knocking Mel, just felt that way). Also, I loved the costumes, the set design (the amazing hall of mirrors where Claudius and Co. spy on Hamlet while he feigns madness), and go ahead and call them "gimmicks" but I liked the cameos from Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Heston.

This is the same reason that I like Baz Luhrmanns' R+J, because it sticks to the original language for the most part. I'm not really a Bloom purist, but as a big Shakespeare fan, I prefer to hear the actual verse rather than some translation.

Oh, and I really would like to see Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. See, I agree that there is a place for interpretations. tongue.gif

P.S. I suppose "horrendous" is too strong a word for the Zeffirelli Hamlet. In grade 12 I did a back to back (2 days in a row) comparison of the two films and I just sided overwhelmingly in favor of the Brannaugh film.

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Oh yeah, and in my Renaissance Drama class this past spring, I got into an argument with 2 other students over the whole Gibson/Brannaugh issue. That was fun.

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I can't stand it any more:

Branagh.

Going away now. Sorry.

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I can't stand it any more:

Ah, those English profs. Mine in college must have had a clotting problem, she kept bleeding all over my papers - there was certainly a lot of red all over.

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I said I was sorry :wink:

From now on I'm off-duty!

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While we're at it, Beth, it's 'life,' not 'lyf.'

smile.gif

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I apolojize for my attroshious spelling. I'll tri to pay moore attention in the futchure. :twisted:

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DanBuck wrote:

: But what a shmuck to let Emma go! Her films got better and his got worse.

Hmmm. They divorced in late 1995. Since then, Kenneth has made roughly 18 films of varying quality (including TV work), the two most recent of which (Rabbit Proof Fence and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) weren't half-bad. (Correction: The Harry Potter film, of course, was not all that great, but Branagh was certainly one of the best things about it.) Meanwhile, Emma has made only 7 films (including TV work), only two of which -- The Winter Guest and Disney's Treasure Planet -- are remotely notable, as far as I can tell.

: : Heston's cameo is one of the few things about that film that I really liked

: : -- and I know for a fact that I'm hardly the only critic who felt that way.

:

: Well, some people go for gimmicks... I don't.

What's the gimmick? Heston is a clasically trained actor whose very first film role, IIRC, was in an independent director's adaptation of a Shakespeare play. There is nothing at all "gimmicky" about seeing Heston in a Shakespeare film.

The truly "gimmicky" thing about this film was the way Branagh threw in those really dumb effects, like the way he throws his sword ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE MIRRORED HALL and kills Claudius with it.

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I thought Emma Thompson was superb in Wit (granted, it was an HBO movie, but still a movie nonetheless).

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Basically though, without veering too far into "Bloom Country"...

laugh.gif

I generally prefer Shakespeare that is close to the original text. ...

This is the same reason that I like Baz Luhrmanns' R+J, because it sticks to the original language for the most part. I'm not really a Bloom purist, but as a big Shakespeare fan, I prefer to hear the actual verse rather than some translation.

The Shakespeare Smackdown series brought me back to this thread, and I got curious about this comment of yours, Anders. Which Shakespeare films use a translation rather than the original verse?

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Translation was a poor choice of words, what I really meant was films that use more of a vernacular version of the text or delete scenes and alter lines (ala Zefferelli's Hamlet and R+J) rather than sticking to the Shakespearean language. Also keep in mind that I just finished a year long class on Shakespeare recently and now my view is a wee bit more critically formed than it was when I posted that.

Speaking of "Bloom Country" I was chastised by my professor for referring to Shakespeare as "THE Bard", as he felt that I should watch that I don't fall into "Bardolatry."

Incase you're interested here's a short essay I wrote on Baz's R+J, defending it as a great adaptation:

Shakespearean Framework in Film:

Baz Luhrmann

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Hey Anders, thanks for posting your paper. I enjoyed it, and totally agree that Baz's is a truly great, imaginative, even visionary interpretation. I thought one section in particular was really perceptive;

What is interesting is that Luhrmann chooses to forego the duel with Paris, the arrest of Friar Lawrence and other dramatic elements, which as pointed out in Chris Palmer

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Just saw TITUS, part of finishing up a Top Ten Shakespeare Movies article for CT Movies. Oh my gosh, what a brilliant film! A silk purse of a movie from a sow's ear of a play - a silk purse filled with human entrails, but a silk purse nonetheless.

I'd write more but, promises to keep / miles to go, all that. For now.... Goths indeed. Horror movies. Incredible dream and fantasy sequences. Over-the-top post-apocalypse badness: BOY AND HIS DOG, ROAD WARRIOR. Japan / Hong Kong chopsocky flicks, I'm thinking Sex & Zen & A Bullet In The Head: bet Tarantino would like this. When the story gets dumb, Taymor cranks up the camp: music is a big tool here. Several directors' careers launched by churning out a (more or less dumb) exploitation / horror movie; Corman quickies, MS. 45, Coens' BLOOD SIMPLE; wonder if this very early Shakespeare was a similar attempt to grab spotlight, out-Jacobean the Jacobeans? When the wagon arrives with the heads, I'm thinking Tom Waits / David Lynch. Is there a VERY rough sketch of LEAR, here? Aging warrior begins play making rash / bloody decisions, brings immense suffering, learns humility through daughter in midst of madness? Mostly this is just no holds barred bloody, but are there fumbling gestures toward redemption? Even the vilest parents love their children: at times, Titus's love for his daughter and his grandson are very beautiful; Tamora pleads for her eldest son, and Aaron's only shred of humanity is his desperate love for his son.

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Just saw TITUS, part of finishing up a Top Ten Shakespeare Movies article for CT Movies. Oh my gosh, what a brilliant film! A silk purse of a movie from a sow's ear of a play - a silk purse filled with human entrails, but a silk purse nonetheless.

I'd write more but, promises to keep / miles to go, all that. For now.... Goths indeed. Horror movies. Incredible dream and fantasy sequences. Over-the-top post-apocalypse badness: BOY AND HIS DOG, ROAD WARRIOR. Japan / Hong Kong chopsocky flicks, I'm thinking Sex & Zen & A Bullet In The Head: bet Tarantino would like this. When the story gets dumb, Taymor cranks up the camp: music is a big tool here. Several directors' careers launched by churning out a (more or less dumb) exploitation / horror movie; Corman quickies, MS. 45, Coens' BLOOD SIMPLE; wonder if this very early Shakespeare was a similar attempt to grab spotlight, out-Jacobean the Jacobeans? When the wagon arrives with the heads, I'm thinking Tom Waits / David Lynch. Is there a VERY rough sketch of LEAR, here? Aging warrior begins play making rash / bloody decisions, brings immense suffering, learns humility through daughter in midst of madness? Mostly this is just no holds barred bloody, but are there fumbling gestures toward redemption? Even the vilest parents love their children: at times, Titus's love for his daughter and his grandson are very beautiful; Tamora pleads for her eldest son, and Aaron's only shred of humanity is his desperate love for his son.

Taymor's Titus is my favorite Shakespeare movie and one of my top ten favorite movies of all time, for all those reasons and more.

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I was somewhat disappointed with Luhrmann's portrayal of Mercutio. Mercutio is my favorite character out of the entire Shakespeare pantheon, and to have him portrayed as "popular nightclub guy with matching pistols" was very annoying.

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In 1996, Leo DiCaprio was the teen heartthrob, and if he can't exactly fulfill the nuances of the text, he certainly incarnates the essence of all-consuming teen-aged smittenness-as does Claire Danes, who does better with the words.

Nnnnnnngahhhhhh! Ron...RON...et tu?

Okay, it's not so bad, but...

Good grief, t'was torture and not mercy for me to watch those two--and I'm a pretty forgiving guy when it comes to young actors tackling Shakespeare--but Leo as Romeo was about as provocative as Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio in Much Ado (and every other film he's mistily entreated his way through)--except substitute "I'm earnest! I'm earnest!" with "I'm angst ridden! I'm angst ridden!"

Now, I have a good deal of respect for the film, even though it's the only Luhrmann film that didn't hit the mark for me specifically because of those two leads; I blame casting, popularity and demographic targeting for my severe disappointment as I left--disappointment born of a lukewarm sensation as I left the theatre wondering what that film would have been if he'd cast principles not so popular but having a grasp of the language that could elevate it to soaring. I felt like I did when I watched Madonna playing Evita Peron: Alan Parker built the entire film up around her so abject failure would have been truly difficult, and Luhrmann surrounded his leads with so much style and panache that the content of their dialogue seemed secondary to their intentions. But intentions, as we know, are built into the very text of Shakespeare--I'd have rather seen the dialogue translated into modern vernacular than watch them attempt to sell the classical in the ham-handed way they did.

I found an integrity to Luhrmann's vision that was vibrant and exciting in a good portion of the film--except when I saw Leo and Clare take the screen together--and I will concede without reservation that it was very effective for many younger viewers. But for me, it's the difference between having an impressionable mind listen to a $12,000 Yamaha keyboard set on Grand Piano play Adagio Sostenuto and listening to a Grand Piano playing the same piece. It's a matter of degrees, and for me, Leo and Clare gave it their best, but fell quite short of a top ten rating.

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I would watch a "modern language" version of Romeo and Juliet only if it included a variation of the Queen Mab scene. Just to see what the modernists would put in its place.

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I would probably put Romeo + Juliet at the top of my list, despite sharing all Jason's reservations about its leads. The fact is that, despite DiCaprio's stupendous pouting, it is by far the most full blooded and interesting adaptation of Shakespeare for modern cinema. It chose its target audience, it chose to invest the original language with modern meanings and just *ran* with it. Hitting every single cultural mark upon the way. Sure; it isolated an entire generation of movie goers most of whom were the traditional audience for Shakespeare adaptations but that was kinda the point! I do love the Zeferelli film and I would heartily agree it's the better love story of the two. But to call Romeo and Juliet a love story is doing it a great dis-service.

Romeo + Juliet is what genius adaptation is all about; something very few other Shakespeare adaptations realise (with the notable exceptions of Trevor Nunn's Twelth Night and Richard Loncraine's Richard III. Although marks off to the former for the wasting of Ben Kingsley who, quite hilariously, is allowed to play Ghandi for the entire film) As Salman Rushdie once put it: Shakespeare is the sacred cow which cinema needs to start defiling if it's going to have his words have the same effect on modern audiences which they did back in the Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre.

Phil.

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Romeo + Juliet is what genius adaptation is all about; something very few other Shakespeare adaptations realise (with the notable exceptions of Trevor Nunn's Twelth Night and Richard Loncraine's Richard III.

I'm guessing you haven't seen Taymor's Titus?

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I'm guessing you haven't seen Taymor's Titus?

To my shame, no. I had been led to believe that I wasn't missing a great deal when it first arrived so decided to leave it until video and then, well, there ain't much room in Blockbuster for Shakespeare... I will catch it when it gets to terrestrial TV, though.

Phil.

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Shantih--

The fact is that, despite DiCaprio's stupendous pouting, it is by far the most full blooded and interesting adaptation of Shakespeare for modern cinema.

So are we removing, like, Throne of Blood and Ran and West Side Story the like from the adaptation rostrum, or do these count as well? Just curious...

It chose its target audience, it chose to invest the original language with modern meanings and just *ran* with it.

I agree, and as I said, I respected Luhrmann's integrity and commitment to the piece--but there are certain problems with doing so if there isn't a suitable marriage of the classical text to the modern interpretation--you can *run* right over lines that have some significance to the piece. A good portion of the time I felt like Leo delivered lines arbitrarily, throwing away or speeding through what didn't make a whole lot of sense and punching up the terms he related to, hoping that a single intention would serve an entire volley of dialogue. For this reason, I can't in good conscience put 'er in my cream of the crop--and I'm not even a staid traditionalist; I'd agree that the Richard III interp is up there, but I'd also add Throne o' Blood.

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As somebody who just visited England just last month, visited Stratford-on-Avon and a model of the Globe theater, and purchased a book about such a history, I cannot emphasize enough that "Shakespeare in Love", while not a true Shakespearean adaptation, is genius. The characters are all real. The places are all real. The subplots and atmosphere and tone are just right. The only thing modern is its fantastic screenplay, thanks to the ingenius Tom Stoppard. I, for one, am soooo thrilled that it deservingly won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan (which, had they excised the entire middle portion, would've been a better, but shorter, film).

Here's others: where's Akira Kurosawa's RAN? (and, for that matter, Throne of Blood)?

I hated the Ethan Hawke Hamlet, loved Branagh's rendition.

How about the Michelle Pfieffer "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?

I've always been partial to Pacino's "Looking For Richard" over Richard III, only because I wasn't familiar with RIII before I saw it.

I agree with Twelth Night, a film adaptation I was able to see without consulting Cliff Notes.

How about "Forbidden Planet" (aka The Tempest)?

The Merchant of Venice is opening this winter!!

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