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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: Taymor Titus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0450  Tuesday, 7 March 2000.

[1]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Mar 2000 11:58:30 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0441 Re: Taymor Titus

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Mar 2000 09:27:43 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 11.0441 Re: Taymor Titus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Mar 2000 11:58:30 +0000
Subject: 11.0441 Re: Taymor Titus
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0441 Re: Taymor Titus

Nicole Imbracsio says,

"It is amazing to think how tightly Titus hold on to what he thinks is
"right": he chooses Saturninus even though Bassianus is engaged to his
daughter Lavinia."

But where in the text is it clear, or even sort of clear, that Titus
knows that Lavinia is engaged to Bassianus?  Would he have killed Mutius
if he had known?  How do his sons, who have also be away at war with
him, know of this engagement and Titus, their father, does not?  I smell
a fault, and a textual one at that.

William Proctor Williams

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Mar 2000 09:27:43 -0800
Subject: Re: Taymor Titus
Comment:        SHK 11.0441 Re: Taymor Titus

I must respectfully (and I mean that) disagree with Jimmy Jung's
statement:

>... as the movie progressed, it seemed to me that Taymor was
>unable to integrate wonderful visual scenes with the rest of the play.
>I believe that Nicole mentioned the scene in which Chiron, and
>Demetrius play pool and video games without ANY dialogue.
>I found that the whole movie was stuffed with these scenes
>(the shower scene, the parade of Quintus and Martius, the orgy,
>the dream/nightmares), but then Taymor would stop abruptly
>and do some dialogue.  This screenwriter, Shakespeare, he's no
>hack, he deserves a little better.  The nightmare sequences were an
>absolute distraction for me.

Titus is a very modern movie.  Emphasis on both modern and movie.  Too
many Shakespeare films and television productions are plays recorded by
a camera.  That is simplistic, of course.  Ken Rothwell did a good job
identifying filmic styles in even the most mundane Shakespeare films
(see his A History of Shakespeare on Screen, Cambridge, 1999).  I'll
defend my statement as a generalization.  Most are not truly reconceived
for the screen, but have the pace and rhythms of the stage.  Compare a
film that does reconceive, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, with something
like the Cukor R&J.

Taymor has truly reconceived Titus Andronicus for the screen.  She finds
visual ways to express plot, character, motivation, theme, mood, and
attitude.  In doing so, she sometimes controls the pace of the story,
giving the audience, and the characters, a chance to catch our breaths
before the next horror, or comments on the last horror visually.  Some
of the scenes mentioned by Jimmy do exactly that.

As a modernist, Taymor has not taken the safe way, but challenged the
way Shakespeare is traditionally done on film.  She did not go as far as
Peter Greenaway, but I consider that a blessing.  If you want to think
of these scenes as interpretative footnotes, I disagreed with some of
her notes, particularly those Jimmy called the nightmare sequences.
(Note, no one is sleeping, but it is hard to know what else to call
them.)

I thought the first nightmare was brilliant.  The rest did not work as
well for me.  I had no trouble with many of her other notes.  I thought
most worked.

I can find a legitimate fault with Taymor using these techniques to make
her "statement" in the film, that violence begets violence and the cycle
must be broken.  That is not the statement I took away from the play
when I read it several years ago, though it is an agreeable idea.  If
someone wants to complain that Taymor added to the play to make a
statement not in the play, I'll agree.  But I'll disagree that this
makes for a bad or wrong minded movie.  I think it rather a brilliant
movie, given its objectives.  I will agree that last shot went on far,
far too long.  I half expected to hear Ringo Starr singing "We all live
in a yellow submarine..."  Still, I don't know of a better Shakespeare
movie in English, emphasis on movie.  It is certainly not a play in this
incarnation.

By the way, I saw it again Friday night with the possibilities of my
last post in mind.  I'm now persuaded that Titus choice for emperor does
work in the film.  By making Saturninus so extreme, Taymor was able to
make Titus' iron willed traditionalism very obvious.  I think my alleged
mind wandered during the first screening, though I'd like to think there
was too much to think about for me to catch the it all.  YEAH, THAT'S
IT!!

I thank Sean Lawrence, Nicole Imbracsio, Jimmy Jung and Alan Dessen (off
list) for their thoughtful and helpful comments.

Best,
Mike Jensen
 

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