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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Classical Acting: Signs of Decline
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0511  Thursday, 21 February 2002

[1]     From:           John Ciccarelli <
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        Date:           Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 11:05:04 -0500
        Subj:           Re: Decline in Classical Acting

[2]     From:           Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:           Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 12:17:15 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:           Re: SHK 13.0484 Re: Classical Acting: Signs of Decline


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ciccarelli <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 11:05:04 -0500
Subject:        Re: Decline in Classical Acting

Bill,

I agree with you up to a point about the Luhurman film.  I was very up
for seeing it, not only because it was another Shakespeare film
adaptation, but being of the MTV generation, I was very intrigued by the
glitzy approach.  I wanted to leave after the 10 minutes lamenting that
I would never see that ticket money again.  However, pestered by my
friend we stayed and like you I waited until the glitz settled down and
the dialogue started.  Once that began, things flowed much better.  The
only saving grace of this film was the script.  Some good performances
by a few notables, like Pete Poselwaite (sp?), but otherwise a poorly
acted and directed film that only held my interest because after all it
was 'Romeo and Juliet'.  Incidentally, Di Caprio has to be by far the
worst Romeo in the history of the play, but that's my two cents.

I had the same reaction to Julie Taymor's 'Titus'.  The beginning was
straining to sit through, but what saved it was the script itself.
Although, Hopkins and most of the cast were superb.  So whenever a new
Shakespeare film adaptation comes out, I'll always give it a chance.
Because in the end, while the movie may stink, at least it's still
Shakespeare.

-John

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 12:17:15 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0484 Re: Classical Acting: Signs of Decline
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0484 Re: Classical Acting: Signs of Decline

Re: changing acting styles, as noted by others on this thread

I remember being utterly blown away by Olivier's HENRY V in 1983, while
an undergraduate. (I saw it in a cinema.) It made such a powerful
impression on me that, a few years later, I considered Branagh something
of an upstart for even contemplating taking on the project. I didn't
NEED another Henry V. I already had the right movie in my mental filing
system.

All that was before I actually saw Branagh's version, however. His
vision of the piece effectively redefined my standards for Shakespearean
screen acting (and, I think, lowered my willingness to accept the
glorification of battlefield violence as it relates to that particular
story).

Nowadays, when I pop the Olivier version into the VCR, it seems to be
trying way, way, way too hard. It seems not just cartoony, but
pathetically cartoony, and in a way that can't be entirely explained
away by the fact that I'm watching it on television. I simply can't
connect with these characters anymore, even though I remember clearly
having done so as a younger man.

I believe drama to be a powerful but inherently unstable medium, and
theater to be inherently fragile.  Let's face it: A good production is
built for one night. When we tempt the fates by, for instance, filming
what was "great" for a certain period, we shouldn't be surprised to see
that it is no longer "great" forty years on. Like physicists pondering
waves and particles, we inevitably bring something to the equation as
observers, and we ourselves have an effect on the outcome we perceive,
whether we wish to admit this or not.

I don't think there ever really was a "good old days," theatrically,
though I would sign on with the notions that a) lots of directors like
to use actors as puppets nowadays, and it's damned irritating to me, and
b) well trained English actors always seem to have an easier time
mastering potentially difficult stretches of language than their
American counterparts. (Side note: There's an interesting article in
this week's Entertainment Weekly about how Peter Finch was cast in the
role of the psychotic American newsman in NETWORK; the producers
couldn't seem to find an American actor who could handle the long
speeches.)

Finally -- Mark Rylance in HAMLET at the New Globe left me moved and
exhilarated in a totally new way.  Glad to be alive. Glad to be someone
who lived in a world where such things as that production could occur. I
certainly can't say whether or not what I feld compares with what people
felt when they saw Olivier or Gielgud, but it got me through the night.

Brandon

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