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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: Romeo and Juliet ROCK
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0819.  Tuesday, 12 November 1996.

(1)     From:   Jodi Clark 303971 <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 1996 22:52:51 +0200 (IST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0814 Romeo and Juliet ROCK

(2)     From:   David J. Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 1996 23:57:14 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0814  Romeo and Juliet ROCK

(3)     From:   David R. Maier <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Nov 1996 00:15:20800
        Subj:   Romeo and Juliet ROCK


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jodi Clark 303971 <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 1996 22:52:51 +0200 (IST)
Subject: 7.0814 Romeo and Juliet ROCK
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0814 Romeo and Juliet ROCK

I recently saw Romeo and Juliet as well with a crowd who had entirely polar
reactions.  I loved it.  I loved that it existed.  I cried at the end not
because the story touched my heart, but because I knew that this version is
appealing to all of the junior high and high school students who have to read
the play for English.  And they will go to this and (I hope) come away
understanding the story and loving it.  Plus, the play with popular culture and
the little references to Shakespeare's world were very cute (the Globe Theatre
Pool Hall, and even the Fortune was some sort of vending wagon).

I read a bit of an interview with the director on what his concept was for
this, and I was thinking it as I saw the movie.  He was trying to put the play
in a context Shakespeare would have presented it in.  Something that a lot of
theatre people forget is that Shakespeare was writing for the masses.  He was
the Quentin Tarantino of his time.  And this film definately gives the sense of
that, literally even.

On the down side, I must say that Leonardo DiCaprio has no sense of the rhythm
of verse and had not much of a clue as to what words he was speaking.  He had
plenty of emotion and gratuitous puppy-dog looks to the audience.  But he was
not meant to do Shakespeare.  He was cast for his name and his looks.

And I feel that the overload of religious imagery really fell short of any
point.  Everyone had a cross.  There were plenty of panning shots of those
gigantic statues of Jesus and Mary.  But they lacked any sense of meaning other
than being set pieces.  Maybe that's all they were supposed to be.  But if so,
they should not have been the focus of so many shots.

The one absolute descenting opinion of the group of people I went with was that
this was an abomination.  I saw Rex Reed last night say the same thing.
Personally, I can't say that this was perfect. But not to admit to the boldness
of this approach and the great amount of successes it does have in this
translation is simply infantile.

Well, I am done preaching from my high horse.  What does everyone else think?

Jodi Clark
Emerson College
Theatre Education

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David J. Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 1996 23:57:14 +0100
Subject: 7.0814  Romeo and Juliet ROCK
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0814  Romeo and Juliet ROCK

Regarding the new Baz Luhrmann film of *Romeo and Juliet*, today's (Monday)
Chicago Tribune has a story on the film and the reaction to it, entitled
"Shakespeare rocks!"  The thrust of the article is that the movie has exceeded
all expectations at the box office ($11.5 million in its first week to take the
top spot, with another $8.3 million the second week), and that the audiences
have been heavily teenagers due to heavy advertising on MTV, "The X-Files", and
"Friends".  The article quotes positive comments from various teachers, who
seem to agree that if this movie gets kids interested in Shakespeare, that's a
good thing, and that Shakespeare has a lot to offer people of all ages if
they'll just give him a chance.  Several teenagers are also quoted with
positive comments on the film.  There's also a sidebar on previous celluloid
versions of R&J, including of course the 1968 Zeffirelli version and the 1936
version starring Leslie Howard (43) and Norma Shearer (36).

Dave Kathman

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David R. Maier <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Nov 1996 00:15:29 -0800
Subject:        Romeo and Juliet ROCK

I disagree strongly with Jimmie Jung's assessment of the latest cinematic
incarnation of R&J.  As to it being brought into the here and now, there wasn't
much that I recognized as here and now.  The vehicles, the buildings, the
culture, were all cleverly modified to reflect a more modern, but also a more
decadent time.  The feel is one of Gotham City meets Blade Runner.  Modern (or
at least more so than Elizabethan), yes. Here and now?  There wasn't much I
recognized in my everyday life.

I really like this movie.  The only thing seriously wrong with it is the
overuse of the "video candy"- the special, fast-paced cinematic effects which
not only leave your head spinning, but at times have you looking for the
Dramamine.  The effects have a purpose - to emphasize the pace and the
decadence of the times, and to hide details while conveying mood.  But they are
overused to no apparent purpose.

As to the use of the original text and the references to swords and rapiers, I
strongly disagree that they are inappropriate.  What I appreciate most in this
movie is its irreverent humor while making a serious presentation of a moving
and timeless story.  I found myself searching for the "in" jokes - the
billboard ads in the background advertising ammunition with the caption
"thunder forth"; the restaurant in the background called "Rosencrantzky's"; the
frequent idiomatic quotes from other Shakepeare plays; and the most delicious
turn of the Friar's delivery of his letter by Post-Post-Haste Dispatch.

As to the references to swords, pay more attention to the inscriptions on the
very elaborate and beautiful guns and the references to manual weapons become
entirely acceptable if not positively delightful.

I found the movie to be one of the most innovative and moving presentations of
R&J that I've seen in a long time and affirms for me the timelessness of the
text.  Unless we are willing to believe that the Elizabethans spoke iambic
pentameter in their everyday lives, then we have to accept that the
Shakespearean text is not and was not a "natural" form of speech for any time.
Thus its use in any time, if done intelligently and artistically, will convey
all of its inherent power, beauty, emotion and deep humanity. To that end, this
film is a great success.  I recommend it highly.

David Maier

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