Simon Boccanegra January 11, 2022 Share January 11, 2022 (edited) Quote Power-hungry Macbeth (Denzel Washington) sets his sights on the Scottish throne after receiving a prophecy from three witches (Kathryn Hunter). With Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling, and Brendan Gleeson. Joel Coen's first movie without brother Ethan (who, at least for now, has taken a leave from filmmaking). It's one I almost don't want the responsibility of starting the thread for, because I wanted to like it more than I did. In the past, when the Coens adapted existing properties, even when they took a very faithful approach (True Grit), they put a strongly personal sensibility into their movies. This is a stately, reverent recitation, every development as inevitable as the stations of the cross. We know exactly what’s coming next, and the actors perform as if they know what’s coming next. Only fleetingly (as in the murders of Macduff’s wife and son, played with real terror by Moses Ingram and Ethan Hutchinson, respectively) is there a feeling that these events are happening for the first time to the people we’re watching. More often, these are actors delivering ancient greatness, on best behavior and in awe of the occasion. The MVP is cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (who shot Inside Llewyn Davis and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), working in misty black and white that pays homage to German Expressionism. The film is shot in the boxy Academy ratio, mostly on soundstages. Were it not for recognizable present-day faces, we might be persuaded this is an early sound film. It looks great. I had expected the performances to count for more, but except for those named above and Alex Hassell as a complex, not entirely clarified Ross, only Kathryn Hunter comes through. Her single contorting witch, whose reflection on water makes her appear a trio, is a searing, grotesque turn. As Macbeth, Denzel Washington does not entirely subdue his tendency to preen, and his Shakespearean recitation is soft-edged and monotonous. Frances McDormand's Lady is disappointing—I'm a fan, and this is the closest I’ve seen her come to blandness. It’s a film made with unmistakable care and craft, but I cannot lie about my experience of seeing it: I was eager for it to reach its conclusion. It reminded me of the feeling I have when I'm in the theater seeing a repertory work competently done: the familiar words and gestures, not much inspiration. I will be giving this a second look, with hope that it lands better, when its streaming date arrives imminently. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive, so perhaps it's just me. Edited January 11, 2022 by Simon Boccanegra 3 Link to comment
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