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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Branagh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0285  Wednesday, 7 February 2001

[1]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 06 Feb 2001 11:24:34 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

[2]     From:   Tim Perfect <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Feb 2001 10:53:22 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Feb 2001 19:09:23 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

[4]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 09:54:29 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
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Date:           Tuesday, 06 Feb 2001 11:24:34 -0600
Subject: 12.0272 Re: Branagh
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

I am glad that a few folks are finally defending Branagh's work.  I
applaud what Branagh has done in spite of the many warts (Jack Lemmon,
Keanu Reaves).  I taught "Hamlet" this semester and I showed Act 1,
scene 1 from the films by Olivier, Nicole Williamson (I forget the
director), Zeffirelli, and Branagh.  There was simply no comparison.
Never mind the asset that for the first time we as a class could discuss
the WHOLE scene as it was meant to be seen, rather than some heavily cut
or rearranged version.  The nuances of the acting, I thought, made the
scene come to life.

For instance, in class we discussed whether the lines reveal any
character difference between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (they do) and
then we saw those very differences come to life.

Also, to see Ophelia (Kate Winslet) blush when she is compelled to
continue lying even though Hamlet realizes that he' s being set up, is
truly moving (for me, anyway), as is his reaction to this discovery.
The pacing here is slow and thoughtful, and I thought heart-breaking.
Agreed, I didn't like the whirling camera (besides the vertigo it
produces, it prevents our being able to discuss blocking).  I also
thought the "To be or not to be speech" to be astoundingly wooden
(Williamson's delivery remains my favorite).

I showed the whole thing on Sunday to my class and the general consensus
was: "wow."  And that's good enough for me.

We may not agree with many of his decisions, but at least he is making
decisions that provoke thought, revelation, arguing, emotion.  And I
simply do not understand the attacks on the acting (I'll confess that
Lemmon, Williams, and Crystal were not enthralling, but so what?  What's
wrong with putting actors IN SMALLER ROLES to produce a little mass?).
I thought by and large the acting was terrific--even Heston.

I have not seen LLL, and I have a feeling that I may not like it as much
as I did his others.  But I don't care: I applaud his taking chances.
And if it turns on some high school or college students to
Shakespeare--then more power to him.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tim Perfect <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Feb 2001 10:53:22 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0272 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

It saddens me greatly to hear the vicious comments thrown onto Branagh's
work, with little or no reason.  I can understand and accept that there
are many people who don't like his work. What I cannot understand is the
pure venom spewing forth from Mr. Weinstein and others.  You'd think
that Branagh had broken into your homes stole your wallet and raped the
dog, for the love of St. Pete.  That kind of commentary belongs at an
XFL game.  I, like Mr. Whitehead, mark Branagh's 'Henry V' as my
introduction and driving force behind my drive to look at more
Shakespeare, and I will be grateful for that always.

Like I said, I can understand the fact that some people dislike
Branagh's work, some with great passion.  Fine.  Then don't watch it
anymore. What I would ask for, and indeed Mr.  Jensen had requested, is
just one REASON or two, or more.

Tim Perfect
Shakespeare & Company
http://www.shakespeare-company.org/

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Feb 2001 19:09:23 -0800
Subject: Re: Branagh
Comment:        SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

For those who felt hurt about my anti-Branagh statements the other day,
I am sorry if you're offended (Heartily! Yes, faith, heartily). I simply
know what I like and what I consider good acting and directing. I've
seen more Shakespeare that I liked than, perhaps, Harold Bloom, but I've
also seen a lot of junk, and for me, most of Branagh's work seems to be
very expensively and lavishly produced junk. If anyone wants specifics,
I'd be happy to comply (when time and space permit!). In the long run,
what matters to each of us is our own personal responses to what we
read, hear, and see.

I did want to say that I agree with some of Charles Weinstein comments
-- especially about Branagh's performances ("the mediocre (Iago) ... and
the unspeakable (Hamlet)." I disagree, however, with his comments about
Branagh's casting choices. He sometimes does hit the mark very well.
Emma Thompson was a perfect choice for Beatrice, and Helena
Bonham-Carter is a superb actress (did anyone see her Olivia in Trevor
Nunn's _Twelfth Night_?) -- was she in LLL (I purposely missed that
one)?  Someone mentioned the other day Richard Briers, who has saved
many a bad moment or scene in several of Branagh's films. One must also
remember the great performance that Robert Stephens gave in the
otherwise dull _Henry V_. Of course, Branagh has also made some
seriously flawed choices: Keanu Reeves as Don John!? Charlton Heston as
the Player!? I sometimes suspect that he surrounds himself with
recognizable faces/names to cover up for his lack of deep thought or
insight.

I'm sorry if I ruffled anyone's feathers. These are merely my own
personal responses, which I feel rather strongly, but you're welcome to
disagree.

Paul E. Doniger

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Feb 2001 09:54:29 -0500
Subject: 12.0272 Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0272 Re: Branagh

I thought we had gotten beyond such unsupported diatribes, which add
nothing to the debate and serve only to vent the emotions of the
writer.  By the way, Mr. Weinstein, I know of no law requiring that you
watch Mr. Branagh's performances.  Please abstain, saving yourself (and
the rest of us) the pain.

Ed Pixley

> Every Shakespeare film made by Branagh since Henry V has been worthless,
> and his own classical performances have ranged from the mediocre (Iago)
> to the unspeakable (Hamlet).  I was not looking forward to his Macbeth:
> a role that has baffled every actor since Olivier (including McKellen
> and Jacobi) was not going to be aced by him.  My only consolation was
> that his divorce from Emma Thompson and his separation from Helena
> Bonham-Carter had spared us the trial of watching either's Lady
> Macbeth.  But with Branagh's infallible eye for casting exactly the
> wrong actor, I'm sure he would have chosen someone equally
> inappropriate.
 

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