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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Branagh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1146  Monday, 16 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Justin Bacon <
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        Date:   Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:05:02 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1011 Re: Lear; Branagh; Interpretations;

[2]     From:   Justin Bacon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 13:12:15 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1020 Re: Oth. CD; Borges; Isabella; Te Deum


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <
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Date:           Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:05:02 -0600
Subject: 9.1011 Re: Lear; Branagh; Interpretations; Psalms;
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1011 Re: Lear; Branagh; Interpretations; Psalms;
Isabella;

I wrote:

> > I think you will find it difficult to point to any Branagh-directed film
> > and find neophyte actors. However, I wish he would make sure he was
> > getting actors who can actually handle the parts he has given to them
> > (>cough< Jack Lemmon >cough<).

To which Sean Lawrence replied:

> Or the embarrassing Michael Keaton.  Or the hopeless Keanu Reeves.  But
> why is Branagh putting these actors in these roles?  Is it to provide a
> foil, making his own adequacy look brilliant?  That said, I think that
> Charlton Heston acted him off the screen.

I think in all of those cases he has selected actors in the hope of
appealing to American audiences and attracting the money necessary for
producing these lavish productions from American production companies.
If he were selecting them to "provide a foil, making his own adequacy"
look brilliant he certainly wouldn't keep casting Richard Briers, Judi
Dench, and Brian Blessed in everything he does.

Nor do I think his "American appeal casting choices" have entirely
resulted in bad-Robin Williams, Denzel Washington, and the boy who
played Hero (whose name, unfortunately I cannot now recall) all turn in
exemplary performances.

And I still object to Branagh being described as "adequate". Despite the
handful of flaws (particularly in his Hamlet), his roles are nothing
short of brilliant.

> > > but it's
> > > certainly a good example of self-indulgence.
> >
> > I doubt there are many in this world who would dispute that FRANKENSTEIN
> > was an absolutely horrid film.
>
> Yes, but what *made* it so horrible?

A really bad script would head my list of things.

Even Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg have bad days as directors; even
Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman have not always shone as actors.

> There was no reason to give himself the "How all occasions do
> inform against me" speech at all, much less to turn it into a moment of
> grandiose declamation, much less make it the crescendo of a grandiose
> movie filmed with 70mm cameras.

Except that he was trying to do the full script, and leaving out a major
soliloquy doesn't exactly lend itself to a "full script".

>  And this is just the problem-acting and directing the
> same films, Branagh is able to indulge himself, in a way that even James
> Cameron can't.  Which is too bad, because his smaller and earlier works
> are really very good indeed.

Yet some of the greatest films of all time are a result of
actor-directors.

Of the four major Shakespearean films Branagh has been in (Henry V, Much
Ado, Hamlet, and Othello) I would say two are definitive works-Henry V
and Much Ado. Hamlet possesses some isolated flaws, and Othello (which
he did not direct) has several which are largely helped by outstanding
performances all around.

Justin Bacon

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 13:12:15 -0600
Subject: 9.1020 Re: Oth. CD; Borges; Isabella; Te Deum
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1020 Re: Oth. CD; Borges; Isabella; Te Deum

> Well, wherever you find it, it will almost certainly be less, much less,
> than Films for the Humanities and Sciences.  Are none of us, aside from
> me, offended by the prices charged by this concern?  Much of the cost
> must come from the almost daily fliers which arrive in my post.  In
> addition, some of the CD-ROMS they are selling are old (5 years) or
> based on old technology (Windows 3.1!!!) but that does not cause the
> price to go down.  If I had the time I'd organize a boycott of this firm
> which is clearly aiming at reducing higher educational media budgets and
> making sure the individual pays through the nose.  Compare their prices
> for standard videos and what you can get in an ordinary shop.  Some time
> in 1997 or early 98 they were asking around $100.00 for Branagh's Hamlet
> and my local Target was selling it for $24.95.

To be fair in this latter case it is almost certain that they were
advertising the film before it was available for individual purchase-it
is fairly typical for a film to retail at a higher price, so as to
attract bulk purchases from video rental chains before individuals are
allowed to purchase the film.

Indeed, Hamlet's list price was $100 for nearly 6 months before dropping
to $25 and being available for those at the common level.

I am particularly disappointed, however, that a letterbox edition has
still failed to be released.

Justin Bacon

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