Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

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zedz
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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#126 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:26 pm
The Man From Laramie is eligible, but I’d encourage any potential voters to think long and hard about what a Shakespeare adaptation even means to you if you’re considering topping your list with a movie that resembles Shakespeare like La Croix resembles Sunkist
It depends whether you're thinking of this list as 'Best Adaptation of Shakespeare to Film', in which case you should be favouring textual fidelity and interpretive insight, or 'Best Films That Are Adaptations of Shakespeare', in which case you're just voting for your favourite films out of a certain subset of films. It seems to me that the latter is much more in the spirit of the list projects, since I don't believe many people were voting for the 'best noir' on the grounds of which films were most emblematic of the genre, or the 'best French New Wave' films based on which ones ticked the most boxes for characteristics associated with that movement.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#127 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:23 pm

I understand your point, but there’s a meeting area between those two poles where I feel most people fall based on discussion so far: a film that brings an interesting approach / reading to the text AND is a good movie in its own right. For me, a truly list worthy film should do both, or at least make feigns to doing so— that to me seems to be following the spirit of the thing

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#128 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:50 pm

Also, re: the actual plays: I’m about 20% into my complete reread, and I’m enjoying myself and taking my time, so I def won’t finish anywhere near the deadline.

I already have a new least-favorite Shakespeare play, though: the Comedy Of Errors. Shakespeare gives us a farce-riffing screwball comedy a couple centuries before Hollywood perfected it, but this isn’t his Bringing Up Baby. Indeed, Comedy of Errors makes Too Many Husbands look like Shakespeare! Unlike the best works of the genre, here the confusions are so utterly idiotic and never-ending that the exhaustion felt from an audience is not one of comical overwhelm but incessant annoyance. This was the first of my rereads where I just couldn’t with following up the play by reading Bloom’s large volume of historical criticism, especially since Bloom starts off calling it a perfect comic masterpiece. Citation nee— oh, right, he gives us a whole book of that. I’ll try cracking it open again once my irritation cools, but God help me if there are any Shakespeare plays worse than this that I’ve forgotten were as obnoxious. Zero percent chance I watch any filmic version of this in the foreseeable future, though, so whoever’s voting for Big Business, I’m sure I’m sorry

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#129 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:55 pm

I'm curious why you think the Mann doesn't do that. He was a big fan of King Lear and incorporated elements of that play into several films (though he never got to make the straight Western adaptation he was building towards.) I think the interpretation he offers in The Man from Laramie suggests several interesting insights into the characters of Edmund and Edgar, and complicates the categories of 'good' and 'bad', and 'true' and 'false' son from the source material. Arthur Kennedy's Vic is a far more morally complex character than the simply wronged Edgar or the simply evil Edmund, for example. Also, the integration of the Lear and Gloucester characters / plots sheds light on the way these two aspects of the play reinforce and challenge one another. And for me, Alec Waggoman's degenerative eyesight is a more fitting metaphor for his moral blindness than the act of malicious violence in the play.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#130 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:06 am

zedz, it sounds like it works at that level for you, so obviously it’s a good choice for your ballot based on your reasoning. To me, a Lear adaptation without the vast majority of Lear isn’t really doing Lear, it’s riffing on a familiar element. The same could be said for Godard’s film, I guess, but that one at least addresses certain key textual elements specifically and engages them with some degree of rigor and even fidelity of a kind and the absence of the rest of the play becomes a commentary of its own (though I don’t really think I can vote for that one either). Mann’s film is really a good western doing its own thing and then sprinkling in a scant few parallels to taste. I think the mere fact that several members had to ask whether it was even eligible speaks to its plausibility as an adaptation...

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#131 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:20 am

I always rank these lists based on how well each film fits in the Venn diagram of 1) fitting the criteria and 2) being a film I love. So I'm not afraid to vote for a favorite that barely fits, but I'll usually downgrade it a little for not fitting

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#132 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:42 am

I’m very curious to see how the final list will look as there hasn’t been a significant amount of homogeneous agreement in discussion so far. I expect there will be plenty of orphans, I just hope Godard’s film isn’t one, though that hope may rest on Richard Brody’s phantom presence on this forum.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#133 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:31 am

There was an ancient British production of Comedy of Errors (featuring a quite young Diana Rigg as the younger of the two sisters) that was (in my long-ago recollection) really quite good -- no other production I've seen has worked anywhere near as well. However, there was a summertime outdoors production of Rodgers and Hart's Boys from Syracuse here in Boston several years ago that was quite delightful -- I wish it had been filmed.

Domino -- what's your opinion of Plautus (whose Menaechmi provided the core of CoE)? And is CoE sillier than Moliere's School for Wives? ;-)

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#134 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:04 pm

I’m familiar with that source from my Shakespeare critical readings, but haven’t read it (or the Moliere)! As heretical as it is, I think a small but significant edit in adaptation/performance would go a long way to salvaging this material: remove the protagonists’ knowledge of their twins. The whole reason Antipholis and Dromio (Of Syracuse) are even in Ephesus is to find their twin brothers, so that it never occurs to them that all of the confusion is easily explainable by their actual purpose for being present is just too big a leap and way, way too stupid. But have knowledge of the twins concealed from the protagonists and just keep Egeon’s explanation in the first act so the audience knows what’s going on and the material at least removes one level of disbelief

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#135 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:37 pm

My feeling is that just the right spark in the performance can make the unbelievability of the plot of CoE slip by (one notes it but doesn't care). I think (unfortunately) the visiting brothers' knowledge of the purpose of the quest is built in pretty deeply into the story (and the source). Maybe one needs a child-like appreciation of the utterly patent absurdities -- like (long-ago) kids watching Punch and Judy shows... Part of the delight might be in seeing the "adults" being so hopelessly obtuse. (Disclaimer -- I was, in fact, 13 or so when I saw and loved that NET broadcast of CoE in the mid-60s).

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#136 Post by ando » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:54 am

Has anyone seen any of The Globe Theater filmed staged performances? I'm on a Henry VIII (All Is True) kick and was looking for a film to compare with the BBC '79 production (a favorite).

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#137 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:08 am

I wrote up their take on the Tempest a few pages back. Spoiler: it’s great

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#138 Post by Feego » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:25 am

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:04 pm
I’m familiar with that source from my Shakespeare critical readings, but haven’t read it (or the Moliere)! As heretical as it is, I think a small but significant edit in adaptation/performance would go a long way to salvaging this material: remove the protagonists’ knowledge of their twins. The whole reason Antipholis and Dromio (Of Syracuse) are even in Ephesus is to find their twin brothers, so that it never occurs to them that all of the confusion is easily explainable by their actual purpose for being present is just too big a leap and way, way too stupid. But have knowledge of the twins concealed from the protagonists and just keep Egeon’s explanation in the first act so the audience knows what’s going on and the material at least removes one level of disbelief
I've never read Comedy of Errors to compare, but the movie Big Business does in fact have the twins totally unaware of each other's existence. Not that I think it will necessarily win you over on that detail alone.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#139 Post by knives » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:31 am

It is, aside from any Shakespeare connection which I view as minimal, a really good movie and a film from when ZAZ was still able to make great comedies.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#140 Post by ando » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:54 am

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:08 am
I wrote up their take on the Tempest a few pages back. Spoiler: it’s great
Oh, I did read that. Thanks. The pre-colonial take, right? Forgot you said it was a Globe Theater production. Queued.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#141 Post by Shrew » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:07 pm

Love’s Labour’s Lost (Branagh, 2000)
Prior to the Tragedy of Poirot’s Moustache, I could expect a Branagh film to feature impeccable costuming and art direction, but also deathly basic musical taste. The man just can’t resist swelling strings beneath his big speeches (as in Hamlet’s “thoughts be bloody” speech) or repetitive motifs (as in Much Ado), which mar even otherwise good films. This, being a musical built around 1930s Cole Porter/Irving Berlin standards, at least has better music—even if it can’t resist those strings beneath the central monologue. However, there’s a trade-off with the costumes; the ladies’ gowns are trying for technicolor but are always either too dull or too gaudy and tend to lack texture, and the guys’ slacks and undershirts look featured on all the posters (and in one Fosse-aping number) is a mistake. The obvious staginess of the sets is more charming.

The songs are surprisingly well integrated with the plot, and while no one involved is a great singer or dancer everyone is charming enough. The tracklist, like in Peter’s Friends, leans toward the overly obvious and doesn’t reveal the deepest knowledge of the era (why “There’s No Business Like Show Business”?), but there’s more good than bad. If you’re content to let the songs themselves do most of the work, it’s fun just to see people have fun. Still, Everyone Says I Love You is the better homage to 1930s musicals from this period, having a few more ideas for how one might attempt to stage an amateur music number. The biggest flaw is Branagh’s reluctance to shoot anything further away than medium shots, which means there are several shots of twirling torsos with no legs.

This is also a Shakespeare adaptation that is trying to be funny for once, and I think it mostly succeeds. It’s overplayed at times, as Branagh can always bring out the ham in everyone, but at least the director has an idea of how to use camera and blocking to highlight the comedy. I liked Timothy Spall’s over-the-top Armado but was a bit cooler on Nathan Lane’s vaudevillian Costard, though I seem to be in the minority.

Branagh also includes some 30s-style newsreel segments to introduce characters and serve as transitions between acts. I can see how some might find these intrusive or superfluous, but I found them mostly charming, with the exception of the one before the final act, which seemed particularly redundant. They also put the play in the context of a world just preparing to march into WWII, which adds some needed counterbalance. This all builds to a newsreel coda detailing how the characters fare through the war, complete with those damned strings. But so help me I found it poignant anyway in how it shifts Shakespeare's intentionally incomplete denouement from a mere parting of lovers to a higher stage.

Also, points to omitting the play-within-the-play in the final act, although the deleted scenes on the DVD show that it was filmed. Like it does in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it serves little function but to halt all action for some exceedingly long and broad comedy.

As You Like It (Branagh, 2006)
Like the Nunn Twelfth Night, this is a more serious than funny adaptation of the play, but it hits tone of a sweet melancholy that better fits a play featuring a proclaimed melancholic. It is also gorgeous; the Japanese setting and design is full-on orientalist, but one that feels rooted in 19-century exuberance of meeting cultures rather than lazy appropriation. Rather than a frenetic style suggested by the source’s madcap plotting, Branagh wisely slows the pacing down and luxuriates in languorous long takes, most notably Rosalind and Orlando’s first meeting in the Forest. With the bucolic setting in full bloom and relaxed style, this comes closest to a “hang-out” film in the Shakespeare catalogue.

Richard III (Loncraine, 1995)
I like the first 10 minutes of McKellen’s 1930s fascist take. There’s an exciting opening where Richard III bursts into the Lancaster bunker in a tank, and then a clever split of the opening “Now is the winter of our discontent” monologue: McKellen delivers the neutral “sun of York” opening to a crowd at a celebratory dinner, then the film cuts Richard III at a urinal expounding upon his greater ambitions. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t have many other ideas beyond “what if Shakespeare but fascist???” The opening credits include a “based a stage production by” credit, and this film feels like one of those productions that’s put a great deal of effort into modernizing the costumes and sets but put little thought into how the play would fit into the new setting. Here I think the problem is that everyone is a fascist, including Henry Tudor, so there’s little difference who’s on the throne. Further, in shifting this story of intra-familial squabbling to this period, it misrepresents the populist horror of fascism as the product of singular ambitious men. In other words, it doesn’t understand the difference between autocracy and fascism.

The ending feels especially deflationary, with its boring chase through an industrial complex. I assume it, with the Al Jolson “Sitting on Top of the World” playing over the credits, is meant to evoke White Heat, but it never hits near the level of tension of the original.

McKellen is fun though, and the rest of the cast is fine. I just wished the thing felt like more than excuse to dress up in Nazi regalia.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#142 Post by ando » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:32 am

Shrew wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:07 pm
McKellen is fun though, and the rest of the cast is fine. I just wished the thing felt like more than excuse to dress up in Nazi regalia.
Indeed. Waste of Kristin Scott-Thomas and Maggie Smith, too. Scott-Thomas is almost always compelling (even in forgettable roles like Mary in Prince's Under The Cherry Moon), but her interpretation in this was uncharacteristically limpid. Dame Smith seemed to be doing someone a favor. She didn't seem to savor the language like she usually does (has quite the rep for handling language). Glad we have her Desdemona on record in the Olivier blackface Othello film ('67) as, to my mind, she is exemplary.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#143 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:50 pm

swo17 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:28 pm
I thought the last domino said was that he needed to rewatch it before ruling on eligibility
I rewatched Kiss Me, Kate. Brilliant as ever. And clearly not eligible due to the performers rule. There is indeed almost nothing in the frame story that could credibly be called an adaptation of the source. I hemmed and hawed a bit on making an exception since we do see the performers give us an (obviously shorter) adaptation of the whole play on-stage, but any special allowance I make here only makes sense to backdoor in Kiss Me, Kate, which isn't a good or credible starting point for a guideline. So, not eligible.

I watched/rewatched two other Taming of the Shrew adaptations as well after rereading the play. I think that Shakespeare Guide guy is dead-on when he says "you can't win" when discussing this play-- I have recently read many fervent defenses and active readings of the play and particularly the final scene, but I think this is "special pleading" and not backed up by the text itself. I understand the frustration Bardolatry-practicers feel at having to reconcile the humanist who gave us vibrant women characters like Juliet or Rosalind with being the same guy who gives us Kate being tormented, tortured, and forced into capitulation to her abuser-- especially when the play itself is easily the best of these early comedies! It does make me laugh a bit at those who get worked up over the ending of the Two Gentlemen of Verona and then find ways to pretend Kate isn't saying exactly what she is saying in the final speech though! As is, this is a very good and frequently amusing play that also furthers a world view abhorrent to most of us watching/reading today. I like to think anyone able to appreciate Shakespeare and the multifaceted readings and approaches one can take to his texts can appreciate the play as it is while still marking it with a mental asterisk in consideration rather than convincing themselves it's actually progressive. It surely ain't, folks.

The Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor adaptation is a frenetic mess, but I liked Burton's zeal, even if he did very self-consciously fill every gap in his lines with incessant guttural guffaws that made him come across like Muttley. The extended courtship, greatly expanded upon from the source and turned into an earthy flirtation/gropefest, is an interesting choice, clearly advocating the reading that Kate meets her match in Petruchio and is actually into the whole thing. I can understand this reading, but to me the great comic horror of the play is found at the end of this scene, when Petruchio announces to Kate's father that even though she says she doesn't want to marry him, they're actually in love and they made an arrangement that she'd still pretend to hate him in public. It's a twisted and perverse comic nightmare, and no adaptation I've seen really knows what to do with it. The film gives Taylor some beats wherein she expends her will on her situation, such as the moment when she takes control of the household and is found cleaning it up (obviously not at the behest of Burton, who could care less), but this again tries to make her out to be willing participant and in some way equal partner, which while understandable is just not convincing for this material.

Also less convincing on revisit is 10 Things I Hate About You, though I still marginally enjoyed it for what it is, a slightly better than average teen comedy from the 90s (and about as much of a Shakespeare 'adaptation" as a fifteen second commercial could be). Stiles and Ledger are both pretty unlikable at the outset and then turn blander as the film loses any nerve in using that to its advantage. The Bianca plot with Alex Mack and JGL fares better, especially since third wheel David Krumholtz is often more entertaining than anyone else here. While I thought the film was well-made, there is a frustrating lack of laughs and general witlessness throughout that made me sad no one involved passed this script off for polishing-- any half-dozen members here could have punched this script up with better jokes in two hours. While infinitely better than the similar She's All That (though surely one of the missed opportunities here was not having Stiles say, "Am I a fucking Shakespeare character?"), this still is nowhere near the teen classic it’s beloved to be by many in my age bracket.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#144 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:55 pm

Funnily enough, I had a brief conversation with a 20-year old the other day where I said I watch a lot of classic movies and his immediate response was "Oh, you mean like 10 Things I Hate About You?"

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#145 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 02, 2019 1:11 pm

I did wonder if everyone who is claiming the film as feminist and totes progressive watched the end credit bloopers, where the "joke" often seems to be actors overstepping established boundaries for alleged laffs! Anyways, the real feminist teen movie people should be bolstering from the late 90s is All I Wanna Do (AKA Strike AKA the Hairy Bird AKA I think that's all the titles it had), which had Weinstein not buried it and fucked over the director would no doubt be considered a teen comedy classic by any metric-- and hey, Rachael Leigh Cook's even in it, so you could completely bin She's All That from consideration!

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#146 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:23 pm

Wasn’t there a taming of the shrew Moonlighting episode?

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#147 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:53 pm

Yep— “Atomic Shakespeare” from season three

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#148 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:55 pm

Cool, I just finished S2!

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#149 Post by knives » Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:13 pm

Cymbeline (dir. Almereyda)
This is a lot of fun as long as you're willing to ride with the central premise that Shakespeare is for the masses. Almereyda dresses and shoots this like a modern, moody affair with a confident style that you never see in Bard films (though common enough in live productions). Basically what I'm saying is that this is a fun little drama that happens to have 400 year old dialogue. The movie doesn't like just for its words with silent shots being just as meaningful as anything else which is the rarest of accomplishments with these films.

Scotland, PA (dir. Morrissette)
There are a lot of good ideas to this tale of MacBeth set in a '70s diner. In particular keeping a sense of tragedy in what feels like the concept for a comedy is potentially daring and bold. Instead though like Wally Pfister's lackluster cinematography the pieces never cohere into a satisfying experience with Christopher Walken doing his thing being the only part worth more than a shrug.

Othello (dir. Parker)
Branagh feels like he was in every mediocre Shakespeare adaptation of the '90s being especially mediocre in this bland retelling of one of Shakespeare's weakest plays. The central act is dependent upon Othello being kind of an idiot and the backstory of slavery doesn't excuse that stupidity a lick. Other stories have effectively shown the neurosis of their characters being their undoing, but Shakespeare doesn't really work with it enough nor have it be a leading reason for Othello's undoing. Even that could work though by playing up Othello's stupidity like with TBN's excellent O which changes the tragedy to being dependent on Othello not having the social skills to handle failure rather than being burdened by psychological folly.

Of course anybody can make anything at least good, but Parker here does a million things to just make this sluggish such as having Branagh whisper ham about and taking too literally the aside's. Or the way that Irene Jacobs looks terrified at the prospect of sex which I guess was Parker's attempt to deal with the problems of Othello's motivation, but just results in making him a weaker character and her one totally without unique qualities. For the tragedy to work the spirit of success must be seen. It just doesn't here. The film can't be summed up any better than by saying it immolates itself to having no point of interest independent of its source.

Othello has at least given us one great Key and Peele sketch though.

Haider (dir. Bhardwaj)
I've just recently finished Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza about the massacre in Rafah. There's a scene in it where collaborating Palestinians are hidden behind a Jeep as men are passed through. The soldiers kill those indicated as enemy's of the state. Likewise there is a lot of discussion about the destroying of houses connected with violence against Israelis. Both of these things get called up in the context of Kashmir with this highly political and unfortunately relevant given recent events rendering of Hamlet.

This remakes the tragedy in a way that I think better suits how Hamlet is performed. Instead of being a bratty prince who goes insane by the insane rules of kingship we have an man displaced from his people and thus unused to how to handle the situation he is working within compounded by the incestuous tragedy. They are now two separate tragedies which I think works better for a traditional tragic hero. That is just one showing of an amazing understanding of the original work. Many parts small and large are present here morphed to fit the Kashmir setting. Whether that be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as foppish blockbuster owners or protest as a modern version of madness there is a lot of insight into the psychology of the characters thanks to this association. A lot of updates in the setting of Shakespeare seems to be done just for aesthetics, but here it is a vital commentary for the film to use.

Probably the wisest is how the film uses its mandatory songs in the context of Hamlet. Obviously the play is a traditional musical (and a truly great one it is), but even before that the songs are framed over the action. Yet afterward they retain their form as if the madness has seeped into reality.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#150 Post by ando » Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:56 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:13 pm
Cymbeline (dir. Almereyda)
This is a lot of fun as long as you're willing to ride with the central premise that Shakespeare is for the masses. Almereyda dresses and shoots this like a modern, moody affair with a confident style that you never see in Bard films (though common enough in live productions). Basically what I'm saying is that this is a fun little drama that happens to have 400 year old dialogue. The movie doesn't like just for its words with silent shots being just as meaningful as anything else which is the rarest of accomplishments with these films.
Shakespeare is quite obviously for the masses which does not mean the lines should be read like they are here. And if by confidence you mean admitting from the jump that the project will never be up to par with the language so let's plow on as if it's not the yellow hosed elephant in the room; ok. That has its attractions - for about five minutes. Wouldn't recommend this dreck to anyone.
knives wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:13 pm
Scotland, PA (dir. Morrissette)
There are a lot of good ideas to this tale of MacBeth set in a '70s diner. In particular keeping a sense of tragedy in what feels like the concept for a comedy is potentially daring and bold. Instead though like Wally Pfister's lackluster cinematography the pieces never cohere into a satisfying experience with Christopher Walken doing his thing being the only part worth more than a shrug.
Spot on. Had far more fun with this one. Though the Macbeth story seems merely a touchstone, even incidental to all the shenanigans.

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