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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Recent Shakespeare Films
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0929.  Tuesday, 10 December 1996.

(1)     From:   John Randolph Burrow <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Dec 1996 13:23:06 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 5 Dec 1996 to 6 Dec 1996 (R&J movie)

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 09 Dec 1996 15:31:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0919  Re: Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Randolph Burrow <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Dec 1996 13:23:06 -0600
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 5 Dec 1996 to 6 Dec 1996 (R&J movie)

I just got the chance to see the new movie version of *Romeo & Juliet*.  It was
bright (garish), not excessively loud (which was a criticism I had read
earlier), sometimes clever (newscasters as the prologue, Sycamore Fields for a
beach arcade; the side-snides of a Globe Theater, displayed too prominently too
many times; Merchant of Verona Beach; and making Mantua a trailer court
mid-desert --all stick in memory yet), sometimes powerful (the power and wealth
of the families came through more clearly than I'd ever seen on stage or on
film, as did the violence with which the community lives--much more vivid than
say, *West Side Story*, the equivalent updating).

However, the supposedly excessive violence of the movie is just comic-book
violence (very carefully avoiding anything directly onscreen, and Juliet dies
with a very tiny bloodstain after taking a huge 9mm to her head).  In fact the
whole movie seems like a comic book--loudly colored, with 2D characters
shouting dialogue, some bizarre angles of view,
pretty-pictures-for-their-own-sake shots (like a police helicopter turning its
floodlight off the street where romeo is hiding to pan up the Christ-of-the
Andes figure, for no apparant reason), and sturm-und-drang coincidence of
weather and mood or action (the sudden storm dakrening the film for Tybalt's
murder).

I actually accepted most of the acting. Pete Postelthwaite as Friar Laurence is
probably the best (and I did enjoy most of the interpretation of that role
until the screenwriter/director decided to change the whole concept of the
mis-communication to Mantua and Romeo's return in order to include an entirely
unmotivated and purposeless car chase).  Both fathers are very interesting.
DiCapprio does all right with his lines, and Danes is okay when her delivery is
voice over.  I didn't like some of the emphases made for the nurse, but overall
the characterizations and acting worked well within the confines of this film.
But the film, in the end, is very confining, really limited in its perspectives
and understanding, and often cheap in its submission to an image (usually
irrelevant to R&J) over an idea.

The ending in particular stinks.  The cops chasing Romeo to the tomb arises
from nothing and then goes nowhere; it's just a chase for its own sake, period.
 Once that was over, I laughed aloud at the neon crosses and forest of candles
(just one too many Madonna videos in the allusory background there) lighting
tomb to have Romeo speak of Death keeping Juliet here in DARK to be his
paramour.  I also could not stop wondering what happened to the hundreds of
cops from dozens of cop cars and helicopters once Romeo got inside the
church/now-suddenly-transformed-into-a-tomb.  Having Juliet wake while Romeo
drinks his poison added no useful meaning or irony.  The director clearly chose
to make Romeo the star, thus turning Juliet's death to an afterthought to be
undermined by a happy-memory sequence of their meeting and separating (and with
both dead, just who is supposed to be having these memories?  The now
thoroughly manipulated audience merely).

When they stuck to simply updating the story, the creative team actualy did all
right.  When they felt moved to change Shakespeare, they screwed things up
(although overlapping Paris's courting and R&J's one night together did play
well).  The kids'll like it well enough (much as old folks my age enjoyed
Zefirelli when we were whipper-snappers).

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.  Love is not love
Which alters when it alterations finds."

--Bill the Bard, Sonnet 116

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 09 Dec 1996 15:31:11 -0500
Subject: 7.0919  Re: Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0919  Re: Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night

Frank Whigham asks:

> Why, though, disguise him {Antonio} with a
>dog-collar and granny glasses in the arrest scene? This too seemed like a
>desexualizing to me.

I wonder if it's a contemporary twentieth century reference to supposedly gay
priests, which doesn't seem to follow from the desexualizing of Antonio's crush
on Sebastian.  I remain puzzled.

>Did anyone see any sign that Olivia's desire for Cesario had any homoerotic
>content, as is often thought?

I feel that Cesario's relationship with Orsino (in the movie) is far more
homoerotic than Olivia's relationship with Cesario.  I think that implication
is created by the romantic situations that Nunn plans for Orsino and Cesario;
listening to Feste sing in the semi-darkness, they almost kiss, etc.  Cesario
and Olivia are confined to domestic settings and brighter light (in general).

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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