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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: September ::
Re: WT Film
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0886.  Tuesday, 2 Septmeber 1997.

[1]     From:   Virginia M. Byrne <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Aug 1997 09:27:54 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0876 Re: Performance (WT Film?)

[2]     From:   Jarrett Walker <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Aug 1997 11:51:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: WT Film? Please, no!

[3]     From:   Peter D. Holland <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Aug 1997 11:01:27 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)

[4]     From:   Bill Gelber <
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        Date:   Sunday, 31 Aug 1997 00:24:58 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia M. Byrne <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Aug 1997 09:27:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0876 Re: Performance (WT Film?)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0876 Re: Performance (WT Film?)

I had forgotten about MIDWINTER's TALE.I thought it was a production
probably the result of too many beers at the local pub one
night...thought it was poorly filmed and written though I had truly
looked forward to seeing it I was very disappointed.

Twelfth Night is now available at Blockbusters by the way

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jarrett Walker <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Aug 1997 11:51:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: WT Film? Please, no!

Tim Richards writes:  who do we talk to about getting a film made of
'The Winter's Tale'?

I understand the desire for films to reach wider audiences, but really,
could there be a more thoroughly unfilmable play than WT?

Even on stage, it's failure-rate is probably among the highest of any in
the canon.  Any reasonably competent production of WT may satisfy us
Professional Suspenders of Disbelief, but pay attention to the teenagers
in the next seat for a moment.  We are trained to read for the plot,
cause that's where the ACTION is.  Any production WT has to charm its
way in the face of that bias, because as soon as you look at the plot
(the Man Behind the Curtain as it were) you've lost them.  As a
sentimentalist might put it, this play is a tightrope of spell-casting;
if you miss one spell, the whole thing becomes a long and painful joke.
(This is probably a modern problem; standards of plot-absurdity, and its
effects, were clearly different for Jacobeans, but I will leave that
question to the historicists.)

Film, I think, makes this problem worse, at least in any conventional
use of the medium.  The few truly great productions of WT I've seen (and
for that matter of other tightrope plays like MUCH ADO) have been about
the presence of the body in space.  As I think back to formative
theatregoing experiences like the 1982 RSC WT with Patrick Stewart, I
remember the sheer hugeness and fullness of the stage's emptiness, and
in a great production, this effect goes to our condition as vulnerable
bodies on a level that is probably mammalian, if not even more
primitive.  This effect, after all, is the very winterness of the play.
Most of the scenes take place in palpable cold, where people are at once
reaching out for control over space while desperately covering their
vulnerable skins.

At its core, I think this spell-casting works because the vulnerability
of the character resonates with that of the actor which in turn
resonates with that of the audience.  How do you do that on film?

Peter Greenaway's rococo horrors have certainly gained a following, and
I suspect that the horror genre brings as close to the
shared-vulnerability sensation as film can do.  [I certainly respected
the first 15 minutes of Prospero's Books as a complete and valid
rendition of THE TEMPEST (though I wish the film had ended there)].  But
even with all the naked extras in the world, film can't get at the
phenomenal feeling of being a body in space, and without that, WT is
thin gruel indeed.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter D. Holland <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Aug 1997 11:01:27 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)

There was another film version of *A Winter's Tale* apart from the BBC
version and the Japanese one that Stephen Orgel mentioned: in 1967 a
version staged by Frank Dunlop was filmed and given limited theatre
release in England with Laurence Harvey as Leontes and (unless my memory
is playing interesting tricks) Jane Asher as Perdita. The best thing
about it was a brilliant Autolycus from Jim Dale. I have no idea where a
copy could be found.

Peter Holland

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gelber <
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Date:           Sunday, 31 Aug 1997 00:24:58 -0700
Subject: 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0880  Re: Performance (WT Film?)

It seems as if there was a "Winter's Tale" filmed some years ago
starring Laurence Harvey.  I can't remember the year.
 

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