The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0980 Monday, 8 April 2002
Date: Sunday, 7 Apr 2002 14:03:05 -0400
Claire and Leo don't know how to speak Shakespeare; consequently they
don't know how to act him. Like tourists in a foreign country, they
cheerfully mangle every syllable. Eloquence and beauty fly out the
window whenever they open their sorry mouths: so does simple
credibility. Imagine American actors performing Racine in French after
a six-week Berlitz course and you'll have the general idea. Whatever
their success in contemporary roles, in Shakespeare Claire and Leo are
ignorant, incompetent and ineffective.
A production of R&J starring clods like these is clearly unacceptable,
barring a positively Thesean indulgence from the spectators. Theseus,
however, was watching a community-theater production mounted by a
bumptious crew of avowed non-professionals. Luhrman's production is a
multimillion-dollar film. Should we not expect decent or even competent
performers in such a context? Guess not. But who cares, so long as the
actors are good-looking movie stars?
As for the film itself, it's a junk R&J for junk sensibilities. Of
course, everyone on this list already knows that; but as T.S. Eliot once
said, people have a bottomless capacity for kidding themselves.
Notwithstanding the above, this subliterate two-hour music video, every
frame of which is hostile to words, has been automatically enrolled in
the Shakespeare on Film pantheon. (Hey, why not? It's a film version
of a Shakespeare play, isn't it?). It will be studied in universities,
made the subject of dissertations and analyzed in boring detail by Eng
Lit scholars who claim to be doing "Shakespeare." Because "Shakespeare"
is only what everyone says he is; and since "everyone" includes the
subliterate, Luhrman's version must be as good as the next person's,
And they wonder why I get angry.
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