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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: Branagh Films
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0546.  Tuesday, 11 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Karen Krebser <
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        Date:   Mon, 10 Jul 95 10:41:38 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0544 *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
 
(2)     From:   James J. Hill <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jul 1995 14:46:47 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Branagh's films
 
(3)     From:   Anna Joell Goodman <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jul 1995 15:54:04 -400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0544  *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
 
(4)     From:   Ellen Edgerton <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jul 95 16:18 EDT
        Subj:   *Othello* film misinformation
 
(5)     From:   Chris Gordon <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jul 95 18:28:39 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 0544: Kenneth Branagh
 
(6)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jul 1995 17:29:13 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Branagh & Othello
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Krebser <
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Date:           Mon, 10 Jul 95 10:41:38 -0700
Subject: 6.0544 *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0544 *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
 
        In response to Chris Stroffolino's question about the casting of
        Emilia: I wouldn't be at all surprised if Emma Thompson shows up
        somewhere in the cast. And no doubt Richard Briers will turn up
        as Brabantio, Brain Blessed as Montano, perhaps, and the hopeless
        Keanu Reeves as Cassio. Ugh.  Couldn't all concerned SHAKSPERians
        submit an open letter to Branagh pleading with him to STOP making
        these movies?? I've heard, quite often, that Branagh's "mission" is
        "to bring Shakespeare to the people."  My students, many of whom are
        quite happy to have Shakespeare brought to them rather than have to
        bother seeking him out for themselves, buy this -- anyone know of
        any pithy, published challenge to Branagh's versions of Shakespeare
        that I can use to add a little printed authority to my own ranting
        on this score? Saddened to hear of another of Shakespeare's plays to
        be despoiled by Branagh's vainglory,
 
Ack! I do believe Professor Morgan-Russell forgot to add "Bah! Humbug!" to his
e-mail message! Zounds!
 
I enjoy Branagh's film versions (although "Much Ado" was too concerned with its
celebrity cast than it was with a decent presentation of certain characters). I
hope he keeps it up, in any event, and I'm glad that popular, widely available
versions of these plays are in the public eye (especially the high-school and
college-level public eye); it may be a sad commentary on late 20th century
American culture that the only way our students come in contact with
Shakespeare (or Beethoven or T.S. Eliot or Dorothy Parker or C.S. Lewis) is
through film. I prefer to think of it as the best use of a movie camera since
"Buckaroo Banzai's Adventures Across the 8th Dimension" ...
 
Of course, we could try trapping them by the busload and shipping 'em off to
Ashland...
 
Waiting for "Macbeth,"
 
Karen Krebser
San Jose State University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James J. Hill <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jul 1995 14:46:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Branagh's films
 
In response to Simon Morgan-Russell's call for all "concerned SHAKSPERians" to
write Branagh an open letter"pleading with him to STOP making these movies," I
must say NO!  I am looking forward to his *Othello* with great anticipation.  I
thoroughly enjoyed his *Much Ado About Nothing* and his *Henry V* [with minor
reservations for each film];  I was disappointed by his *Twelfth Night* [no
Branagh and a poor Malvolio; but splendid acting by Viola & Olivia--their
scenes together were beautiful].  "Concerned SHAKSPERians" should judge
*Othello* when it is released [not pre-damn the film because of newspaper
hype].  Jim Hill
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Joell Goodman <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jul 1995 15:54:04 -400
Subject: 6.0544  *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0544  *Oth.*: Q: Emilia; Othello v. Iago; Film
 
In his recent letter, Simon Russell-Morgan took Kenneth Branagh to task for his
"vainglory" and asked that he "STOP making these movies." Perhaps I am putting
my own cultural respectablity on the line by saying this, but I think that it
would be sad, indeed, if Mr. Russell-Morgan's wish came true.
 
As a 23 year-old who has only begun work on her PhD, my opinion may not count
for much among the upper echelons of Shakespearian scholarship, but I do know
two things about Shakespeare: 1)I love his works enough to devote the rest of
my life to studying them, and 2)many of my contemporaries ran in the other
direction from Shakespeare, considering him boring and anachronistic, until
Branagh's films began to give them glimpses of the beauty that lies within the
plays.
 
To be sure, Branagh's films are pop-culture versions of the works, but at least
they are there, available to introduce a new generation to the Bard. Although I
must admit that I found myself waiting for Reeves to blurt, "Had I my teeth, I
would bite, dude," in last year's MAAN, that bit of casting did accomplish
something that Shakespeare films have been hard-pressed to do for several
decades: it put young people in the audience. Please view the films for what
they are before you condemn them. Would we judge HBO's cartoon versions of the
plays by the same standards we would a Sam Mendes production in Stratford? I
should hope not. It would be unfair to everyone involved.
 
I believe Branagh accomplishes the "mission" which Mr. Morgan-Russell seems to
disparage--he brings Shakespeare to the people. I do not think that is so very
wrong. Everyone is not as devoted to Shakespearian scholarship as the people on
this list, and I think that it would be a sad thing, indeed, if the Bard's
works were only seen and appreciated by the intellectaul and cultural elite. I
don't think that was Shakespeare's intention when he wrote the plays, and I am
very happy that people like Branagh are so eager to share some of the greatest
works of the English language--popularized or not--with the masses...
 
Respectfully,
Anna Joell Goodman
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ellen Edgerton <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jul 95 16:18 EDT
Subject:        *Othello* film misinformation
 
To Simon Morgan-Russell:
 
Kenneth Branagh is not directing the new *Othello* film, and maybe if you'd
read the recent posts about it you'd be aware of this fact.  The director is
Oliver Parker.  I have seen a cast list and it does not include any of the
people you vented your spleen about.  It does include Michael Maloney
(presumably as Cassio), and other names I'm completely unfamiliar with.
 
Also, nobody is getting $11.5 million dollars to star.  This was incorrectly
reported by Reuters and they have issued a retraction. The film's entire budget
is $10 million.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Gordon <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jul 95 18:28:39 -0500
Subject: Kenneth Branagh
Comment:        SHK 0544: Kenneth Branagh
 
I'm sorry that Simon Morgan-Russell doesn't enjoy Mr. Branagh's Shakespearean
films; I'm sure he can find some support for his views somewhere in the academy
and elsewhere. For my own part, I love his work, both on stage (I saw
productions of *A Midsummer Night's Dream* and *King Lear* that he directed on
tour in Chicago in 1990) and in film (with the possible exception of *Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein,* which I thought went overboard in its gruesomeness.)
My students enjoy his work as well, and many of them who began their studies of
Shakespeare terrified of this "idol," found that Branagh's films brought the
plays to life in ways that I hope complemented the work we did in the
classroom. His films have also persuaded some people I know who have _never_
studied Shakespeare or who have only unpleasant memories of high school
introductions the the plays that Shakespeare is, in fact, interesting, amusing,
thought-provoking, and relevant to our life in the late 20th century. I look
forward to *Othello* with great anticipation, and expect that I will add it to
my video collection as soon as that is an option. Mr. Morgan-Russell may, of
course, simply avoid these films if he finds them vainglorious. For my money,
Branagh could do nothing _but_ Shakespearean films and I would be a very happy
person.
 
Chris Gordon
University of Minnesota
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jul 1995 17:29:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Branagh & Othello
 
Dear Simon, I really don't understand what's bugging you about Branagh. Perhaps
you could be more specific.  I know that I for my part would probably never
have come to feel personally connected to *Henry V* if it weren't for him.  And
it's hard for those of us who can't afford to fly to London more than once a
lifetime or so really "to seek Shakespeare out." The best actors in America
make movies like *The Bridges of Madison County* and *Batman.*  It's okay by me
if some of the best actors in G.B. are still taking it upon themselves to use
Shakespeare as their vehicles for stardom; and I personally feel that
Shakespeare and film can be rather well suited to one another, each making a
contribution to the other.  Now if you want to start complaining about Mel
Gibson, that's another story.
 
Robert Appelbaum
English - UC Berkeley

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