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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2205  Friday, 1 December 2000

[1]     From:   Thomas Cartelli <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 09:51:54 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2193 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 09:39:53 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 22:32:19 -0800
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 13:56:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

[5]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 2000 14:44:37 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Cartelli <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 09:51:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 11.2193 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2193 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

Re: Sam Small and awful Andronicus

I had thought (wrongly) that Milla Riggio's wonderfully measured
response to Sam Small's dismissal of Taymor's TITUS would have at least
prompted Small to review and reconsider (his response to) the film.
Should he ever wish to do so, I'd advise starting with the Director's
Commentary section of the DVD version.  While Taymor is no doubt
preoccupied with the "look" of her film, with color coordination,
architectural juxtapositions, etc., the commentary reveals a painstaking
concern for text and speech presentation that might surprise Small.  But
given his apparent deafness to the brilliance of the line-readings of
Anthony Hopkins and Harry Lennix, I suppose he'd find something to
quarrel with here as well. . .  One last observation:  Taymor also
reveals in her commentary an understanding and appreciation of the
richness of this play that far exceeds that of any Shakespearean I know,
most of whom have been eager to consign it to the dustbin of "bad
Shakespeare".  Her film has certainly made me a believer and brought me
back to the text in a way that no theatrical production of my imagining
(least of all Small's) could have done.

Tom Cartelli

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 09:39:53 -0800
Subject: Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

I've hesitated to get involved because of my growing contempt for two of
the people debating Taymor's Titus, but I don't remember a post that
considers the unexpressed ideas that underlie the rhetoric.

Sam Small does not like Titus because he feels it gets the play wrong.
Another correspondent sprayed the film with his usual bigotry and bile.
Both missed the point.

Titus is a MOVIE.  It is a movie by a fairly avant-garde filmmaker who
is not afraid to rethink her source material and boldly use a new
wineskin to package the old wine.  I find that those whose knowledge I
already respect also understand and like the film.  I find that those I
already don't have a lot of respect for write of it in the most scathing
terms.  They find NOTHING to praise in it, but seem to get off by
putting it down nastily.

If Sam Small doesn't want to like the movie because it is not his Titus
Andronicus, that is fine with me.  I object to the "third person" way he
does it, writing, "It is bad." instead of the considerably fairer, "I
don't like it."

I object to the lack of willingness to consider the points of view of
others and, Hegel like, adopt the best of them.

I mostly object to his tired act of lobbing into our midst an idea he
knows many list members will challenge.  It may be Titus, politically
correct language, or the idea that Shakespeare should not be taught to
anyone under the age of thirty.  I object to the way he keeps the
controversy going with brash language that sometimes borders on the
personal.  He has even, when a subject dies down, written rudely
challenging messages to get it going again.  I'm on this trick now,
which brings me to my last objection.

I object to myself for falling into these traps and playing along with
Mr. Small, back when I did.  The good news is that others who have
responded to him have made some excellent points that were worth
airing.  The bad is that they were made to the incorrigible.  They may
have helped some readers, but can never reach their intended target, as
he has proudly proclaimed on list.  I hope that those who see this
matter as I do will refuse to play with him any more.  He doesn't play
nice.

Now I'm going to go away and feel guilty for getting angry enough to
make personal comments about a list member, but feel glad that I finally
saw through it.

Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 22:32:19 -0800
Subject: 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Fw: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

Harry Teplitz wrote,

> I also want to object to Sam Small's recent assertion that Shakespeare
> films are doomed to fail because the emphasize star actors and spectacle
> over the verse.  Obviously the verse is important, but didn't the
> original audiences go to the plays to see the stars and the spectacle?
>
> Large roles were written for the popular actors, and even references
> made to their previous successes?  (Polonius as Caesar)  Also, it is
> strange to accuse Shakespeare films of generally having actors speaking
> verse badly.  What about Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, and Kenneth
> Branagh?

This is quite the case. Richard Burbage was a far bigger draw to the
audiences at the Globe than was William Shakespeare. In fact, plays were
usually advertised by their titles and their actors, with the author's
name left unmentioned. The histrionic rivalry between Allyn and Burbage
as the two leading "stars" of the Elizabethan stage excited audiences
more than the plays they performed in.

I agree with you, by the way, about Hopkins and McKellan, but find
Branagh's linguistic skill seriously lacking. Not too long ago, we had
the superior skills of Olivier, Richardson, and Guilgud (and the
potentially superior skill of Richard Burton). Today, however, we still
have some incredible actresses (Maggie Smith, Jane Lapotaire, Joan
Plowright, etc.), whose ability with the verse is equal to any of the
men mentioned above.

Paul E. Doniger

P.S. Has anyone mentioned yet that _Titus Andronicus_ was Shakespeare's
"Greatest Hit" during his lifetime?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 13:56:22 -0500
Subject: 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

>  I find the child a nagging presence that prevents (to my mind)
> the film from entirely succeeding.

It might be a little unfair to assign the sole responsibility to Ms.
Taymor, as this device is not original with her.  Something similar was
done in the BBC/Time-Life version, with Young Lucius appearing at the
beginning and end of the production and weaving in and out in places
where Shakespeare did not include him.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 2000 14:44:37 -0000
Subject: 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2198 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

John Briggs ("who lives in a suburb outside Portsmouth") responded to
Portsmuthian Sam Small:

> Portsmouth is NOT one of the most violent cities in
> Britain (reputedly or otherwise!).  I lead a sheltered
> life, so it is difficult for me to gauge the level of crime,
> but apart from prostitution (there is a Naval Base...)
> and drug dealing I would have thought that there wasn't
> a lot of scope for organised crime, but Sam obviously
> knows more about the gangster community than I do!

I suspect that Sam's target is literally closer to home, John.  At
Portsmouth's armaments fairs (now usually hidden away on Whale Island in
the harbour) a tightly organized criminal gang calling itself the
'Ministry of Defence' flouts international law by selling weapons to
foreign dictators.  This criminal conspiracy receives succour from the
Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), which also lent a hand in
the 'troubled' Balkans:

"The UK component of the NATO action in Kosovo faced many new and
challenging demands. At DERA we are proud to have been asked and been
able to handle well over a hundred urgent project tasks. This is DERA's
core role at work." (DERA Chief Executive's statement, 1999 annual
report http://www.dera.gov.uk)

Sounds rather too exciting for my kind of "sheltered life".

Portsmouth City Council's website boasts that "Rudyard Kipling spent six
miserable years" in the city. A former resident, I know why.

Gabriel Egan
 

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