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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
"Shakespeare in Love"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1287  Saturday, 12 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Stephanie Cowell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Dec 1998 12:40:36 -0500
        Subj:   New Movie "Shakespeare in Love"

[2]     From:   Daniel Traister <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 1998 12:46:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   'Shakespeare in Love': Shakespeare Saw a Therapist?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Cowell <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 1998 12:40:36 -0500
Subject:        New Movie "Shakespeare in Love"

I have seen the new movie "Shakespeare in Love" and it's very funny and
quite silly. As a novelist who has fictionalized Shakespeare twice (The
Players and Nicholas Cooke), I am always curious to see what other
people do. Here's the handsome, sexy young charmer, sensitive and with a
bad case of writer's block.  Joseph Fiennes makes him very amiable and
Dame Judy Dench is quite a funny Queen. Some good actors, others
miscast. I thought Ben Afflect stuck out like a sore thumb. But the good
thing is that perhaps, even though it is a very fictionalized romantic
comedy, it will open the door to some people who are rather wary of
Shakespeare and think of him as a marble bust, just as Amadeus, with its
inauthentic portrayal of the dignified Mozart, brought many new friends
to his music.

I'd love to hear what other people think when they see the movie!

Stephanie Cowell

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel Traister <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 1998 12:46:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        'Shakespeare in Love': Shakespeare Saw a Therapist?

The following review of a new movie of some interest to SHAKSPERians is
forwarded from The New York Times, Friday, December 11, 1998, which made
it available on its website on that day:

'Shakespeare in Love': Shakespeare Saw a Therapist?
By JANET MASLIN

Shakespeare meets Sherlock, and makes for pure enchantment in the
inspired conjecture behind "Shakespeare in Love." This film's
exhilarating cleverness springs from its speculation about where the
playwright might have found the beginnings of "Romeo and Juliet," but it
is not constrained by worries about literary or historical accuracy. (So
what if characters talk about Virginia tobacco plantations before there
was a Virginia?) Galvanized by the near-total absence of biographical
data, it soars freely into the realm of invention, wittily weaving
Shakespearean language and emotion into an intoxicatingly glamorous
romance. No less marvelous are its imaginings of an Elizabethan theater
fraught with the same backbiting and conniving we enjoy today.

Tom Stoppard's mark on the jubilant screenplay, which originated as the
brainstorm of Marc Norman, harks back to the behind-the-scenes delights
of his "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." This is a world in which
a therapist times his patient with an hourglass and a souvenir mug is
inscribed "A Present From Stratford-Upon-Avon." Says the dashing young
Shakespeare, played tempestuously well by Joseph Fiennes, about the more
successful Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett): "Lovely waistcoat.
Shame about the poetry." And there is the inevitable moment when someone
asks who Shakespeare is, only to be told by a comically obtuse producer
(Geoffrey Rush): "Nobody-that's the author."

Ingenious as the film's many inventions happen to be (from boatmen who
behave like cabbies to its equivalent of Shakespearean outtakes-"One
Gentleman of Verona" in the writing process), it could never have had so
much energy without the right real-life Juliet to dazzle Will. Gwyneth
Paltrow, in her first great, fully realized starring performance, makes
a heroine so breathtaking that she seems utterly plausible as the
playwright's guiding light. In a film steamy enough to start a sonnet
craze, her Viola de Lesseps really does seem to warrant the most
timeless love poems, and to speak Shakespeare's own elegant language
with astonishing ease. "Shakespeare in Love" itself seems as smitten
with her as the poet is, and as alight with the same love of language
and beauty.

As directed by John Madden in much more rollicking, passionate style
than his "Mrs. Brown," "Shakespeare in Love" imagines Viola as the
perfect muse: a literate, headstrong beauty who adores the theater and
can use words like "anon" as readily as Shakespeare writes them. She
comes into his life at a pivotal moment in his career, about which the
film speculates with literary scholarship and Holmesian audacity. What
if, before making the leap from his early works to the profound emotions
of "Romeo and Juliet," he had suffered both writer's block and a crisis
in sexual confidence? ("It's as if my quill has broken," he tells his
therapist.) What if such impotence could be cured only by a madly
romantic liaison with a Juliet prototype, an unattainable woman with a
habit of speaking from her balcony?

Enter Viola, who is so eager to work in the theater that she disguises
herself as a boy, since women are forbidden to act. (Part of the film's
great fun is its way of working such Shakespearean gambits into its own
plot.) On her way to winning the role of Romeo, Viola finds herself
suddenly enmeshed with the handsome playwright himself, and the film
gives way to a heady brew of literature and ardor. In one transporting
montage, the lovers embrace passionately while rehearsing dialogue that
spills over into stage scenes, and the bond between tempestuous love and
artistic creation is illustrated beautifully. The film is as bold in its
romantic interludes as it is in historical second-guessing, leaving Ms.
Paltrow and Fiennes enmeshed in frequent half-nude, hotblooded clinches
in her boudoir.

Far richer and more deft than the other Elizabethan film in town
("Elizabeth"), this boasts a splendid, hearty cast of supporting
players.  (The actors in both films, like Fiennes, do notably better
work here.) Colin Firth plays Viola's fiance as a perfect Wrong. Rush's
opportunistic producer is very funny, as is Ben Affleck's version of a
big-egoed actor, Elizabethan style. (Cast as Mercutio, he is also
hoodwinked by Will into thinking that "Mercutio" is the play's name.)
Also most amusing is Tom Wilkinson as a financier who grows
stage-struck, Jim Carter as the actor who looks silliest in a dress,
Simon Callow as the Queen's censor and Imelda Staunton as Viola's nurse.
Judi Dench's shrewd, daunting Elizabeth is one of the film's utmost
treats.

So are its costumes. The designer Sandy Powell has previous credits
including "Orlando" and "The Wings of the Dove," and she deserves to be
remembered for her wonderfully inventive work this year. She contributes
extravagantly to this film's visual allure and did the same for "Velvet
Goldmine." Gear-switching that extreme is no mean feat.

PUBLICATION NOTE
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

Rating: "Shakespeare in Love" is rated R (Under 17 must be accompanied
by parent or adult guardian). It includes nudity, bawdy humor and torrid
sexual situations.

Directed by John Madden; written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard;
director of photography, Richard Greatrex; edited by David Gamble; music
by Stephen Warbeck; costumes by Sandy Powell; production designer,
Martin Childs; produced by David Parritt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey
Weinstein, Edward Zwick and Norman; released by Miramax Films. Running
time: 113 minutes. This film is rated R.

Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Viola de Lesseps), Joseph Fiennes (Will
Shakespeare), Geoffrey Rush (Philip Henslowe), Colin Firth (Lord
Wessex), Ben Affleck (Ned Alleyn), Judi Dench (Queen Elizabeth), Rupert
Everett (Christopher Marlowe), Simon Callow (Tilney, Master of the
Revels), Jim Carter (Ralph Bashford), Martin Clunes (Richard Burbage),
Antony Sher (Dr.  Moth), Imelda Staunton (Nurse), Tom Wilkinson (Hugh
Fennyman) and Mark Williams (Wabash).
Copyright 1998 The New York Times
 

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