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Shakespeare Movies/Adaptations

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So I thought I'd start a thread for all the film adaptations of Shakespeare plays (and yes, the modern ones like 10 Things I Hate About You can count).

 

I recently rewatched the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet and I think that's probably the best version.  No offense to the Baz Luhrman/Leo one, but I think the 60s movie did a better job of portraying Romeo and Juliet for what they were: a couple of giddy, impulsive teenagers.

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O, a modern day retelling of "Othello", set in a prep school.  Starring Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles.  Tthis was right after Julia Stiles had made 10 Things I Hate About You, another Shakespeare remake.  I loved her in both.  She was so pretty in this.

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If the adaptation keeps the original language, is it better to have the cast be all movie actors (a la Joss Whedon) or do you throw some experienced Shakespeareans into the mix (a al Mel Gibson's Hamlet)?

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One thing that really stood out in the 1990 Hamlet with Mel Gibson and Glenn Close: there's a world of difference between reciting Shakespeare and speaking Shakespeare.  Gibson and Close weren't horrible, but they clearly weren't native speakers, as it were.  And the dialogue just sounds richer and deeper when spoken by people with experience.

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One thing that really stood out in the 1990 Hamlet with Mel Gibson and Glenn Close: there's a world of difference between reciting Shakespeare and speaking Shakespeare.  Gibson and Close weren't horrible, but they clearly weren't native speakers, as it were.  And the dialogue just sounds richer and deeper when spoken by people with experience.

 

Very true.

My favourite Shakespeare play is Macbeth and I'm really, really excited for the new adaption with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, but I'm also curious to hear how they'll do with the language. I know Marion Cotillard herself said it was hard for her to wrap her head around it, and that she'd wondered why they picked someone whose first language wasn't English to begin with. I think she has the potential to be fantastic, though. Can't wait to see it.

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I really think no one can speak Shakespeare better than Kenneth Branagh. He has the most natural feel for the language of anybody I have seen. I remember Jack Lemmon, bless his soul, said in an interview for Hamlet that he couldn't make heads or tails of the language. He said he worked with Kenneth and Kenneth made it sound like modern day conversation, but then Kenneth walked away and the magic went with him. Speaking v. reciting Shakespeare: it really is a gift.

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I love Branagh's Henry V. And I'm grateful that he gave Patrick Doyle a chance to score it, since I love everything he's done. 

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is a contemporary musical take on A Midsummer Night's Dream.  They take the words from the play and turned them into songs as part of a story of a gay teen whose love potion causes chaos in his town as he tries to get the people there to see things from his perspective.

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Whether by training or instinct or whatever, the main thing (for me) that an actor needs to succeed in Shakespeare is convince us that this way of speaking is natural to him or her -- that s/he always talks this way. Branagh is able to do it very well, so are a number of others. Surprisingly, most of the British classical eminences thought that Marlon Brando "made a good shot" at Mark Antony in the Julius Caesar movie (meaning probably "considering he has no background in doing this, it's surprising how close he got"). But that isn't getting all the way there.

 

As for Mel Gibson, he was certainly uneven as Hamlet, but he had his moments -- especially at points where his skill at acting for the camera (letting it come to him) served him well, as in the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech. But then you see Paul Scofield as the ghost, and it's a whole different level.

 

In Branagh's own Hamlet, I would say that Jack Lemmon is an embarrassment; he's not a favorite of mine anyway, but he's still an experienced pro, and I would have thought his self-respect would have made him ask more of himself in preparing for this quite brief role. But some of the other "ringers" are superb. I'm unaware of Julie Christie having done any classical theater, and yet I found her completely convincing and moving (she's helped by the welcome lack of Freudian undertones in her scenes with her son -- most movies since Olivier have gone there, mistakenly I think). And Billy Crystal is wonderfully right and believable as the gravedigger (admittedly he has prose rather than verse to say, which probably helps).

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Paul Scofield always blows me away when I see him playing the French king in Branagh's Henry V.  I love just about every aspect of that film, but Scofield's weariness and quiet majesty is amazing to see.

 

Brian Blessed's Exeter is also terrific in that movie. I love his delivery of Exeter's smackdown of the Dauphin.

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Brian Blessed's Exeter is also terrific in that movie. I love his delivery of Exeter's smackdown of the Dauphin.

 

He's really one of my favourite things about that film.

Blasphemy though it may be, I actually don't love Branagh as Henry V at all. I don't know what it is, but he just doesn't work for me in that film - especially his delivery of the big speeches. I adore his Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, love his Iago, and his Macbeth was one of the better things about that production (don't get me started on Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, though - I wanted to stuff something in my ears when she spoke), so I do enjoy hearing him do Shakespeare, just not his Henry.

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I do like Branagh's Henry, as I do his direction of the film (I have have an issue or two with his choices, but they're minor). By contrast, I really have come to not like his Benedick, and that makes me sad because I was crazy about it when the movie first came out. But he's so determined on generalized high spirits and "isn't Shakespeare lively sexy fun?" demonstrating, that a lot of specific things about the character get lost. I don't think Alexis Denisov is ideal as Benedick in the Whedon film by any means, but he does come closer (to my eyes) because he's after the specifics of who Benedick is.

Edited by Rinaldo

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Since Branagh's Henry V was my introduction to the play, his version of the character is the definitive one for me. I saw the Hollow Crown version with Tom Hiddleston, whom I love as an actor, but his Henry was just too...well, not-Branagh for me to truly enjoy it, especially in TH's delivery of the Band of Brothers speech.

 

Branagh's Henry is so natural in his speech, powerful in his majesty when he has to be, menacing when he goes all quiet (the "Paris balls" speech to the courier), and then wrathful in his fury (when he throws the courier--poor abused guy!!--to the ground after the battle of Agincourt), and then stumbling in his wooing of Katherine (I love his quick "Here comes your father" at the end of the courtship scene).

Edited by Sharpie66
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I saw the Hollow Crown version with Tom Hiddleston, whom I love as an actor, but his Henry was just too...well, not-Branagh for me to truly enjoy it, especially in TH's delivery of the Band of Brothers speech.

 

Oh gosh, yeah. I mean, I have no real issue with Hiddleston himself in it - I think he could've been a terrific Henry if the direction had allowed him to, but the direction didn't allow him to. Addressing the St Crispin's Day speech to four (or something) noblemen? No. Sure, it doesn't have to be done the bombastic way Branagh did it; it can be done awesomely if delivered more low-key and intense, but it does need to be delivered to his men, the men who were exhausted and sick and hungry and needed rallying. I was sorely disappointed in that whole film, and I love the play and had such high hopes.

 

The first part of the Hollow Crown tetralogy, though, Richard II, I thought was fantastic! A little heavy on the Christ imagery, yeah, but gorgeous cinematically, and Ben Whishaw was perfect.

 

By contrast, I really have come to not like his Benedick, and that makes me sad because I was crazy about it when the movie first came out. But he's so determined on generalized high spirits and "isn't Shakespeare lively sexy fun?" demonstrating, that a lot of specific things about the character get lost.

 

 

Interesting! I've always felt the opposite, that his Benedick is so quintessentially, well, Benedick.

My other favourite Benedick would have to be Damian Lewis in the ShakespeaRe-Told version. That version is actually great on the whole, too, especially with fixing the Hero/Claudio ending.

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Oh gosh, yeah. I mean, I have no real issue with Hiddleston himself in it - I think he could've been a terrific Henry if the direction had allowed him to, but the direction didn't allow him to. Addressing the St Crispin's Day speech to four (or something) noblemen? No. Sure, it doesn't have to be done the bombastic way Branagh did it; it can be done awesomely if delivered more low-key and intense, but it does need to be delivered to his men, the men who were exhausted and sick and hungry and needed rallying. I was sorely disappointed in that whole film, and I love the play and had such high hopes.

 

The first part of the Hollow Crown tetralogy, though, Richard II, I thought was fantastic! A little heavy on the Christ imagery, yeah, but gorgeous cinematically, and Ben Whishaw was perfect.

 

 

Interesting! I've always felt the opposite, that his Benedick is so quintessentially, well, Benedick.

My other favourite Benedick would have to be Damian Lewis in the ShakespeaRe-Told version. That version is actually great on the whole, too, especially with fixing the Hero/Claudio ending.

 

I really liked the ShakespeaRe-Told films, especially the Much Ado one.

 

The Re-Told version of Taming of the Shrew ended up a lot better than I imagined it would, mostly due to Rupert Sewell, although Shirley Henderson didn't bug me as much as I thought she would. (I saw a great live performance of Taming at the Globe Theatre in London two years ago, which was pretty straightforward but had a great little moment that completely changed my opinion of Bianca, when she was giving Kate just as much abuse if not more than Kate was giving her but then she put on a "Oh, pity poor abused me!" act when their dad walked in the room, fooling him completely and leaving Kate feel betrayed by him.)

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(I saw a great live performance of Taming at the Globe Theatre in London two years ago, which was pretty straightforward but had a great little moment that completely changed my opinion of Bianca, when she was giving Kate just as much abuse if not more than Kate was giving her but then she put on a "Oh, pity poor abused me!" act when their dad walked in the room, fooling him completely and leaving Kate feel betrayed by him.)

 

(The production with Samantha Spiro as Katherine? I saw her as Lady Macbeth last summer and kept thinking I was seeing Katherine on stage. It's like she was born to play that part.

And hey, when I was in Shrew we played Bianca that way, too.)

 

The Re-Told version of Taming of the Shrew ended up a lot better than I imagined it would, mostly due to Rupert Sewell, although Shirley Henderson didn't bug me as much as I thought she would.

 

"Kiss me, Kate!"

"Up yours, weirdo."

 

I did love Rupert Sewell, he was perfect, and Shirley Henderson worked well, too. It's a tricky play to modernise, what with Katherine's big speech at the end, but I thought they got it to work quite well on the whole.

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The production with Samantha Spiro as Katherine? I saw her as Lady Macbeth last summer and kept thinking I was seeing Katherine on stage. It's like she was born to play that part.

 

 

Yes, that's her!! She was reallllly good as Kate.

 

And hey, when I was in Shrew we played Bianca that way, too.

 

 

That's the first time I'd ever seen Bianca portrayed like that, and both my mom and I, along with the rest of the audience, went "OOooooooh!" when we saw that twist on her character.

 

ETA: I made a mistake--it's Rufus Sewell, not Rupert!  I keep wanting to call him Rupert Everett, who is someone completely different. (Edited again to correct who I mix Rufus up with--I was thinking that Rupert Everett was the same as Rupert Graves--nope!!)

Edited by Sharpie66

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Ah! I know and love Rufus Sewell, and was starting to wonder if there was a new member of his family I'd never heard about. 

 

I've seen both Ruperts on Broadway: Graves in Closer and Everett in Blithe Spirit. To me they're worlds apart, but it's partly the movies I happened to see that defined them for me (respectively A Room with a View and My Best Friend's Wedding). In Shakespeare, Rufus Sewell is Branagh's Fortinbras, of course.

 

Speaking of Much Ados, there's a semi-famous "lost" version: The BBC Complete Shakespeare video series began with a taping of Much Ado with Michael York and Penelope Keith. They then decided it wasn't what they wanted as a production, so they set it aside and shot their first season. Years later, people were curious but it turned out the master tape had been wiped. Too bad -- wouldn't you like to see Penelope Keith as Beatrice?

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I loved Kenneth Branaugh's version of Hamlet.  True, the Mel Gibson one had the scandalous incest kiss, but whoever said nobody could read Shakespeare like Branaugh was right.  And of course Kate Winslet rocked as Ophelia.  Her insanity was scene was very disturbing.

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Ha, and there I go, just repeating the mistake without even noticing!

 

Yes, that's her!! She was reallllly good as Kate.

 

I can absolutely imagine that she was. Doesn't she even look a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor the Zefirrelli film version? Which I hated when I watched it, incidentally. Shrew isn't a favourite of mine to begin with, but in that film, the sequence where Burton's Petruchio is chasing Kate, finally catching her and basically twisting her arm behind her back while declaring that they're going to marry? I didn't find it funny at all, just immensely uncomfortable. (Maybe that was even the point - to be honest I tried to put film out of my mind as soon as I'd seen it and didn't analyse it too closely.)

 

I always feel like a bit of a bad Shakespeare fan for not really enjoying Hamlet, in any film version. Maybe I just need to see a really good production.

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I loved Kenneth Branaugh's version of Hamlet.  

 

I do too. (It's Branagh, BTW.) When it was new and playing in another city an hour away, I drove there on a snowy day, not getting out till midnight after which I had to drive home, and it was totally worth it. Not only Kenneth himself, or Julie Christie and Billy Crystal whom I've already mentioned, but also Derek Jacobi as Claudius (he's a famous Hamlet in his own right, and did it for the BBC video series), Richard Briers (a Branagh regular) as Polonius, Kate Winslet as already mentioned, Charlton Heston (a genuine devotee of Shakespeare, who has played several of the plays onstage and filmed two) as First Player, and on and on. There are a few ideas in the movie that I dispute (mostly to do with the ghost), but I can live with them because the rest is so good.

 

True, the Mel Gibson one had the scandalous incest kiss

 

An idea also found in Olivier, as aforementioned, and not an asset as far as I'm concerned. It's one of those Ideas that seems provocative on first glance (like "Iago is unconsciously attracted to Othello") but on closer acquaintance has no real light to shed on the play. 

 

On the other hand, I can think of instances where a same-sex attraction, though most likely not intended by the author, nevertheless fits smoothly into the story, is suggested by the dialogue, and enhances the characterizations. In particular, the two Antonios: the titular Merchant of Venice (Jeremy Irons definitely played him this way, helping Bassanio because of his feelings for him, in the most recent film) and Sebastian's loyal friend in Twelfth Night (the Trevor Nunn film made poignant use of this, culminating in his being one of the ones excluded from the final happy ending while the rain it raineth every day). I can even imagine Horatio's devotion to Hamlet being played this way, though I've never seen it done.

 

Schweedie, I don't know what to suggest to you for Hamlet, if none of the movies grabs you. (Have you tried the Campbell Scott one?) Nobody is required to like everything, after all (I find myself immune to the greatness of some classics, like most of the great Russian novels and plays). My own top four Shakespeare starts with an oddity -- Measure for Measure, which once got me accused of "just trying for hipster cred" -- but then gets more standard with Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. I love the reference to Hamlet in the underrated epistolary novel Daddy-Long-Legs. It's part of a letter from the main character Judy (raised in an orphanage, she's only now discovering literature) to the anonymous benefactor who's sending her to college:

 

Speaking of classics, have you ever read Hamlet? If you haven't, do it right off. It's PERFECTLY CORKING. I've been hearing about Shakespeare all my life, but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation.
Edited by Rinaldo

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I remember Jack Lemmon, bless his soul, said in an interview for Hamlet that he couldn't make heads or tails of the language. He said he worked with Kenneth and Kenneth made it sound like modern day conversation, but then Kenneth walked away and the magic went with him. Speaking v. reciting Shakespeare: it really is a gift.

 

The biggest surprise to me and the friend with whom I saw Hamlet, was that Jack Lemmon stank to high heaven and Charlton Heston (!) was terrific.  So this explains a lot.

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In Shakespeare, Rufus Sewell is Branagh's Fortinbras, of course.

 

His entrance at the end of the film prompted me to turn to my friend and say "He can invade my country any time".

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Schweedie, I don't know what to suggest to you for Hamlet, if none of the movies grabs you. (Have you tried the Campbell Scott one?)

 

I haven't no! I'll give it a look, although I think maybe it's just a play that I need to see live for it to really grab me.

Gotta love being accused of wanting hipster cred with your favourite play, eh? I know a friend of mine whose favourite is The Tempest has received similar comments.

 

On the other hand, I can think of instances where a same-sex attraction, though most likely not intended by the author, nevertheless fits smoothly into the story, is suggested by the dialogue, and enhances the characterizations. In particular, the two Antonios: the titular Merchant of Venice (Jeremy Irons definitely played him this way, helping Bassanio because of his feelings for him, in the most recent film) and Sebastian's loyal friend in Twelfth Night (the Trevor Nunn film made poignant use of this, culminating in his being one of the ones excluded from the final happy ending while the rain it raineth every day). I can even imagine Horatio's devotion to Hamlet being played this way, though I've never seen it done.

 

I wouldn't even necessarily say it's likely not intended - after all, there's quite a case to be made for Shakespeare himself being bisexual, so I wouldn't be surprised if it were intentional. Agreed, the Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night certainly plays that up, and I've always felt that the Baz Luhrman Romeo + Juliet did that with Romeo and Mercutio, too.

 

His entrance at the end of the film prompted me to turn to my friend and say "He can invade my country any time".

 

Heh, you can say that again.

Edited by Schweedie

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Charlton Heston (a genuine devotee of Shakespeare, who has played several of the plays onstage and filmed two)

 

 

I was watching a WTTW (the main Chicago PBS station) documentary about the city and its suburbs (they have a lot of them, all highly recommended!), and the host talked about Heston's college years at Northwestern and showed a few brief clips from a 1950 film of Julius Caesar, in which he played Mark Antony. It was filmed in Chicago at various classical Roman-type settings (there are a lot of them in the area, surprisingly enough, due to the popularity of the classical revival style in architecture at the turn of the last century). I just looked it up on IMDB, and they called it "a black-and-white low-budget oddity". It was directed by a local film archivist that Heston knew in college and co-starred a lot of his fellow students.

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a 1950 film of Julius Caesar, in which [Heston] played Mark Antony. It was filmed in Chicago at various classical Roman-type settings 

I grew up in Skokie Illinois, and they showed us this movie in high school (when we were reading Julius Caesar)! The steps of the Museum of Science and Industry were very recognizable in some scenes (I think for the battle scenes they used the beaches around Zion). Not very good, though the later Caesar that Heston directed in the early 1970s (and again played Antony) doesn't sound to have turned out well either -- it's never shown, and I hear that Jason Robards's Brutus is the main reason. (At that, it's one up on his Antony and Cleopatra, which is virtually unseen in the US and was considered unreleasable.)

 

As a gay man, I'm cautious about the speculations about Shakespeare's sexuality -- it's easy to make a fool of oneself claiming him for "one of us." Sexual orientation was seen so differently then, and "love" between men was declared in such a different way than it is now... I'd say we really don't have the information to be sure about anything there. I suppose that means we can invent whatever we'd like. :) Anyway, interpretation within the plays is fair game as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's congruent with the writing.

 

The Hamlet codirected by and starring Campbell Scott is as imperfect as any other, but it has definite merits. It's an all-American cast (using unabashed American accents), set around 1900, filmed on a Long Island estate. Scott is at his best with the lighter, playful side of the character; his interaction with the players is about the best I've seen.

 

And then there's the Richard Chamberlain version, a Hallmark special on commercial TV from around 1970. It hasn't been made officially available for home viewing, but it should be. He himself does quite well, the script has been intelligently abbreviated (by John Barton), and there are some eminences in the cast: king and queen are Richard Johnson and Margaret Leighton, ghost is John Gielgud, Polonius is Michael Redgrave.

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I love the reference to Hamlet in the underrated epistolary novel Daddy-Long-Legs. It's part of a letter from the main character Judy (raised in an orphanage, she's only now discovering literature) to the anonymous benefactor who's sending her to college:

Quote

Speaking of classics, have you ever read Hamlet? If you haven't, do it right off. It's PERFECTLY CORKING. I've been hearing about Shakespeare all my life, but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation.

 

 

(OMG, I looooove Daddy-Long-Legs! I gave a copy of it to my cousin's daughter for her b-day years ago, and she and her mom, who read out loud to each other every night when she was young, both fell in love with it, as well.)

 

Anyway, going back to Shakespeare, has anyone seen Branagh's Love's Labour Lost? I've been thinking about checking it out of the library, but I've heard such varying reviews that I don't know if it's worth my time.

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(Anyway, going back to Shakespeare, has anyone seen Branagh's Love's Labour Lost? I've been thinking about checking it out of the library, but I've heard such varying reviews that I don't know if it's worth my time.

I've seen it (this time when I drove an hour to see a new Branagh Shakespeare movie in its first limited run, I wanted my time and money back). I kind of hate it (it's the only one of his Shakespeare's I feel that strongly about; As You Like It has some good things). But I also think everybody should decide for themselves. 

 

Partly my reaction is that of someone who loves, studies, and teaches musical theater toward arrogant movie directors who think "anybody can make a musical" without spending a moment respecting or studying the form to learn how its elements work -- that it's not just a matter of selecting random songs and sticking them in where they sorta kinda fit the situation. Characters need to have something they need to communicate through song, and actors need to have at least enough expertise to get the message across through their singing without making amateur mistakes. (Other examples of the phenomenon: Peter Bogdanovich, At Long Last Love; Woody Allen, Everyone Says I Love You; James L. Brooks, I'll Do Anything. There are more.) In LLL, Branagh just picked out songs he likes -- not all of the same period -- and assigned them to characters and scenes arbitrarily, and it's just unbearable. I have friends who'll say "Oh, but it's OK because they're winking at us so we'll know it's all on purpose," to which I say hogwash. Inept is inept, and you don't get a free pass by saying (this is a Bogdanovich quote) "Oh, but they're deliberately bad, it's charming." The only one in LLL who emerges well is Nathan Lane, who really knows what he's doing and gets "No Business Like Show Business" near the end. (Adrian Lester is a good song-and-dance man, especially the latter, but you'd never know it from this.)

 

But as I said, certainly everyone should watch it and come to their own conclusions. Don't pay attention to anything I say....

Edited by Rinaldo
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That's what I was afraid of. I'm a big musical theatre fan as well (I love the reference book No Legs, No Jokes, No Chance by Sheldon Patinkin, Mandy's cousin and a prof on musical theatre at Columbia College in Chicago), and I really hate it when directors arbitrarily stick in songs just to make it a "musical", instead of a "musical play."

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Does anyone else think that Leonard Whiting in the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet looked and sounded like Zac Efron?  I wonder if they're distantly related or it's just a coincidence...

 

I always get a kick out of their version of the wedding scene because of how the friar has to literally get between them because they were snogging each other so hard. 

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Does anyone else think that Leonard Whiting in the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet looked and sounded like Zac Efron?  I wonder if they're distantly related or it's just a coincidence...

 

During the height of Efron's fame, youtube clips of R&J had a mass of comments saying "He looks like Zac Efron!!!111!!!" and older viewers comments back "No, dear. Zac Efron looks like Leonard Whiting." It was all in good fun and was really amusing to read.

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God, the musical score from that Romeo and Juliet is so easy to get stuck in your head.  Maybe that's why I always found that film poignantly heartbreaking, despite the unbelievable suddenness of the romance.  That and Whiting and Hussey really sold their performances.  Every time "A Time for Us" comes on the radio...gah.

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I'm not a crier at movies in general -- when I do feel the tears coming, it's likely to be something childhood-fantasy-fulfilling (ET) or a circle-of-life ending that stops the action and places it in the past (Z, Diner, Next Stop Greenwich Village). My one exception, where I'm responding to something sad, is that Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet. Maybe I was the right undergrad age when it came out, but certainly that Nino Rota music helps. And only as heard instrumentally (or in that one "madrigal" vocal rendition) in the movie -- its adaptation as a pop song outside the film loses pretty much all its appeal for me.

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My favourite Shakespeare play is Macbeth and I'm really, really excited for the new adaption with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, but I'm also curious to hear how they'll do with the language. I know Marion Cotillard herself said it was hard for her to wrap her head around it, and that she'd wondered why they picked someone whose first language wasn't English to begin with. I think she has the potential to be fantastic, though. Can't wait to see it.

 

Well, I'm gonna go back and quote myself here, because I finally got to see this film last night, and... I was so disappointed. Like, so disappointed I was angry afterwards - it takes a lot of skill to make Macbeth jumbled and dull, but man, did Justin Kurzel manage it. Passionless is the one word I'd use to describe it. So much whispering, so monotonous, so frustrating.

 

The one thing I'll say for it is that it looked gorgeous, but dammit, that is not enough. It was all style over substance, and so much wasted potential.

 

... It would seem I'm still angry.

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I wish they had filmed Kenneth Branagh's stage version of Macbeth in the old military hall in New Ayork. We'd lose a lot of the amazing detail they put into the building to make the audience part of the action, but since I can't get to New York I would have been thrilled to see a filmed version. It sounded incredible! Wasn't he supposed to film a version of it with Scorcese?

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Stream-of-consciousness excursion here, but the Macbeth production that I wish could have been made into a film was Olivier's. He and Vivien Leigh did a production at Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1950s that was widely admired as a whole and for their work in particular. There were indeed attempts to get it filmed, but they fell through. I would happily live in a world where Olivier's Othello movie didn't exist and we had Macbeth instead.

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I wish they had filmed Kenneth Branagh's stage version of Macbeth in the old military hall in New Ayork. We'd lose a lot of the amazing detail they put into the building to make the audience part of the action, but since I can't get to New York I would have been thrilled to see a filmed version. It sounded incredible! Wasn't he supposed to film a version of it with Scorcese?

 

Wait, do you mean the one with Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth? That production was filmed! Or, I guess maybe it wasn't filmed in New York, but at a similar venue in... Manchester, I think it was. I went to see it in the cinema, and it was absolutely gorgeously done - the way they utilised the the building was fantastic, and the ghost-at-the-banquet scene so clever. Sadly Alex Kingston was terrible (in my book), which ruined it a bit for me. You might want to check out your local cinemas, if you have one that does this kind of screenings - they've actually shown it a couple of times at mine.

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I will look for it, Schweedie, thanks! I saw a documentary on the New York stage version, and they built Stonehenge inside the armory. The audience was divided into clans and escorted through the bog and sculptures to their seats, which were benches along the sides with the muddy stage in center. I was amazed and wanted desperately to see it on screen. The Manchester version will have to do!

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Oh man I'm looking forward to this one. Even though Hopkins and Thompson played lovers before in Merchant Ivory movies it won't detract from her playing his daughter for me! Hope they show it on BBC America:

Edited by VCRTracking
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It's a good weekend for me, as a Shakespeare fan.

Saw Midsummer Night's Dream last night at the theatre, just back from Shakespeare in the park (Tempest) and then Lear Tomorrow

Edited by Which Tyler
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Wow, this is a great interpretation of Lear and his retinue. You kind of don't blame Goneril for wanting them out! Emma Thompson also looks fantastic.

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1 hour ago, VCRTracking said:

You kind of don't blame Goneril for wanting them out!

I never blame her, seeing the play or reading it. Lear always seems like a stupid, selfish irritant to me. Which I know one can argue he is meant to be, but then how does that link to the great raging monologues and our having to accept him as a tragic hero, if he's nothing but a jerk who's upset about the consequences of his actions? I keep hoping for the production that'll make the play work for me. Maybe this will be it.

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2 hours ago, Rinaldo said:

I never blame her, seeing the play or reading it. Lear always seems like a stupid, selfish irritant to me. Which I know one can argue he is meant to be, but then how does that link to the great raging monologues and our having to accept him as a tragic hero, if he's nothing but a jerk who's upset about the consequences of his actions? I keep hoping for the production that'll make the play work for me. Maybe this will be it.

I like the samurai version of Akira Kurosawa's Ran makes the Lear character very tragic. Maybe it's because it's sons instead of daughters.

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Has anyone seen the 2000 film of Hamlet set in New York? Ethan Hawke played Hamlet, Julia Stiles was Ophelia, and Bill Murray was Polonius. I quite enjoyed it, although I can imagine people getting annoyed at Denmark being the name of a corporation and Elsinore Castle re-imagined as a hotel. (Ophelia drowns herself in the hotel fountain.)

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59 minutes ago, GreekGeek said:

Has anyone seen the 2000 film of Hamlet set in New York? Ethan Hawke played Hamlet, Julia Stiles was Ophelia, and Bill Murray was Polonius. I quite enjoyed it, although I can imagine people getting annoyed at Denmark being the name of a corporation and Elsinore Castle re-imagined as a hotel. (Ophelia drowns herself in the hotel fountain.)

I saw it and enjoyed it, and I haven't encountered anyone who was annoyed by those things, though I suppose they may exist somewhere. One of the biggest problems about classics in modern dress is that what the characters describe (swords and so on) is not what is obviously happening, and this movie tried to address that mismatch. The cast was good, though not, I've found, memorable embodiments of the roles as some other film productions have provided. In fact, I had to look it up just now to remember who played the King (Kyle MacLachlan!). The women remain memorable for me because of their production history: Julia Stiles was apparently destined to be in all the modern-day Shakespeare movies (10 Things I Hate About You and O as well as this), and this was Diane Venora's third role in the play (after Ophelia and Hamlet). And I see that there are more familiar names in the smaller roles than I had remembered. Sounds like I need to see it again!

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On 6/24/2018 at 7:36 PM, GreekGeek said:

Has anyone seen the 2000 film of Hamlet set in New York? Ethan Hawke played Hamlet, Julia Stiles was Ophelia, and Bill Murray was Polonius. I quite enjoyed it, although I can imagine people getting annoyed at Denmark being the name of a corporation and Elsinore Castle re-imagined as a hotel. (Ophelia drowns herself in the hotel fountain.)

 

On 6/24/2018 at 8:45 PM, Rinaldo said:

I saw it and enjoyed it, and I haven't encountered anyone who was annoyed by those things, though I suppose they may exist somewhere. One of the biggest problems about classics in modern dress is that what the characters describe (swords and so on) is not what is obviously happening, and this movie tried to address that mismatch. The cast was good, though not, I've found, memorable embodiments of the roles as some other film productions have provided. In fact, I had to look it up just now to remember who played the King (Kyle MacLachlan!). The women remain memorable for me because of their production history: Julia Stiles was apparently destined to be in all the modern-day Shakespeare movies (10 Things I Hate About You and O as well as this), and this was Diane Venora's third role in the play (after Ophelia and Hamlet). And I see that there are more familiar names in the smaller roles than I had remembered. Sounds like I need to see it again!

Ethan Hawke recently told of how years ago he got nervous before doing the famous "To Be or Not To Be" speech after Vanessa Redgrave and before Paul Scofield do their Shakespeare monologues at an Amnesty International benefit at the Globe in London and the advice he got from Mark Rylance who ran the theater:

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It's a great story, and I enjoyed it a lot -- thanks for sharing it. But there's something off about it. "To be or not to be" really are the first words Hamlet utters at that particular entrance. "Now I am alone" is the first line of a different Hamlet soliloquy, the one we usually think of as beginning "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I." I wonder if Hawke has "polished" the anecdote for American audiences, figuring that "To be, etc." is the only Shakespeare speech everyone recognizes, and in reality he had to say that other speech (still a familiar one to a Globe Gala audience). Or else Rylance told him to insert the line before "To be," to throw the audience off base and elicit the laugh.

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On 6/7/2018 at 6:14 PM, VCRTracking said:

I like the samurai version of Akira Kurosawa's Ran makes the Lear character very tragic. Maybe it's because it's sons instead of daughters.

Ran is a really good adaptation, I liked it a lot. I dont think its because its sons, exactly, I just think they give their version of Lear more of an arc, and he was, ironically, more of a real Shakespearean tragic hero. Or, villain I guess. He is less stupid and more of a guy who rose to power through violence, and then was failed by hubris (which is always a classic) and in the end, he realized everything he did was for nothing, and he was a pretty crappy guy all along. Plus, its just a great movie, even if you dont know its connection to King Lear.

I also love Throne of Blood, also by Kurosawa, a Japanese version of Macbeth. Its so fascinating to watch the combination of Shakespeare and Japanese folklore and traditions of dance, dress, and storytelling, and setting it in a fascinating period in its history. But its still clearly Macbeth. 

Seeing a performance of The Tempest this weekend, and I am super excited! I've always loved The Tempest (it might even by my favorite Shakespeare play) but I've never seen it performed live, so this should be interesting.

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