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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Recent Shakespeare FIlms
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0925.  Monday, 9 December 1996.

(1)     From:   Matthew Bibb <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 Dec 96 12:00:08 PST
        Subj:   The NEW Romeo and Juliet

(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Saturday, 7 Dec 1996 16:39:20 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0919 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Bibb <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Dec 96 12:00:08 PST
Subject:        The NEW Romeo and Juliet

It took me a few weeks after seeing Romeo and Juliet and observing all of you
arguing about it before I was able to find the key I was looking for into my
own argument. That key, oddly enough, was _Ransom_. Maybe Mel Gibson is good
for something, after all.

_Ransom_, for those of you lucky enough to have missed it, is an insult to
intelligence. For a film promoting itself as a tense thriller, there is not one
thrill or moment of tension to be found. As an example, at one point in the
movie the villain holds a gun to the head of Mel Gibson's character. Everything
about this scene, from camera angles to pulsating music, is meant to inspire
nervousness in the audience. "Dear God," we are meant to think, "is he really
going to shoot!??!?" Of course, we do not think this, because everyone in the
audience knows that no movie starring Mel Gibson and costing God knows how much
is going to end with the death of the lead character. Please trust me that this
is not an isolated incident; _Ransom_ is chock-full of nonsense like this.

I know, I know, when is he going to start talking about something relevant to
SHAKSPER? I'm getting there.

Whether or not _R & J_ is good Shakespeare - and I think it is - it is
undeniably a good movie. Luhrmann as a director pulls out all the stops to keep
his audience off-guard, to keep you interested in what happens next. Let's talk
a little about some of the things that make this good Shakespeare, and then
we'll swing around once more to why it's a good _movie_, and then I'll
(thankfully) be done.

The acting: Danes and DiCaprio are, as has been pointed out, young and pretty,
but what's more important is that they are convincingly hot for each other.
It's hard to pull off love at first sight if your actors don't look like they
want to jump each other. Luckily, these two do. They also ain't bad as actors,
and those who disparage their efforts aren't playing close attention. DiCaprio
takes some time to warm up, and has a couple awkward line readings, but this
almost seems okay coming from the love-sick, bad poetry-writing Romeo. And
Danes is letter-perfect. Her lines sound the way all lines should, as if she
thought them up right there.

Let us also not forget the excellent supporting cast: The man who plays
Mercutio (I can't remember his name and have never seen him before) was
fantastic, as was the woefully underemployed Brian Dennehy (for all thirty
seconds that he was onscreen), Diane Venora gives a performance as Gloria
Capulet that solves one of the big problems I've always had with the play (see
below). All in all, not bad.

Uh-oh, I'm starting to run on. Better hurry up.

Real quick...the problem I always had was with Lady Capulet turing on Juliet
after Capulet's edict to marry Paris. For a character who has supported Juliet
through all the rest of the play to suddenly turn on her always seemed awkward.
Venora (and, presumably, Luhrmann) solves this problem by playing Gloria as a
faded Southern belle, someone who was once beautiful but is beginning to show
her age. She also plays Gloria as a woman in love with Paris. This is so cool.
Gloria dances with Paris, takes flowers he brought to Juliet for herself, does
everything but rip his clothes off. When Gloria turns on Juliet, she does so in
disgust at Juliet's rejection of Paris, in realization of her own fading powers
of seduction. It plays up the age/youth conflict to brilliant effect.

So (he said, the end in sight) why is _R & J_ such a good movie? It manages to
take Shakespeare and make him fresh, make him new, and keep you guessing.
Luhrmann takes so many surprising twists during the course of the movie that by
the time you reach the end you no longer know what to expect. And when Juliet
ALMOST manages to stop Romeo, you actually find yourself, despite 400 years and
countless versions, thinking, "My God, she's going to make it!" When she
doesn't, it makes the tragedy of the story all the more real. It is that
moment, that wonderful frisson of anxiety and desire, that _Ransom_ never
manages to acheive, but Luhrmann, through sheer audacity and a demonstrated
willingness to take creative risks, does.

I have lots more that I COULD say, but lord knows I've rambled on enough as it
is. I look forward to hearing what you think about all this.

     Matt Bibb
     UCLA Shakespeare Reading and Performance Group

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Saturday, 7 Dec 1996 16:39:20 -0500
Subject: 7.0919 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0919 Re: Trevor Nunn's *Twelfth Night*

To Frank Wigham--

The friend I saw 12N with not only saw the homoerotic content to Olivia's
attraction to Cesario, but also felt that there was homoerotic attraction on
Viola's part as well expressed in the desire to "take off the veil" and see the
"painting"---this had not occured to me before and I am curious what others
think about it. It does make sense in a way in terms of her not following the
"text" that is in Orsino's "bosom"--though it could also be argued that Viola's
motivations here are not erotically charged and stem from the sympathy (both
have lost brothers, etc) and the fact that her ORIGINAL desire was to serve
Olivia rather than Viola...

I did however feel that Antonio's homoerotic desire for Sebastion was given its
due (but maybe that's more because of the head full of criticism I came to this
production with--Pequiney, etc.)

----To David Lyles....

Well, I don't know if the audience is totally suppossed to laugh at Malvalio by
the last scene of the play, or of the movie...sure, as someone else suggested,
Nunn and company did delete some of the emphasis on the NECESSITY of Malvolio's
co-operation in restoring Viola to her woman's weeds (and I did see a
production once that ended with the whole cast--sans Feste--running offstage
allegedly in search of Malvolio)...but even with this de-emphasis I still
believe there is a sense that Malvolio is "mightily abused" and even perhaps
"more sinned against than sinning" and of course much of this is not explicit
in ANY performance of the play, but it does help make sense of Toby's parallel
chastisement and Feste's isolated and somewhat melancholy insouciance at the
end of the play (despite the seeming pleasure he takes in "the whirligig of
time")....Chris Stroffolino
 

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