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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Movies and Other Issues
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1224  Thursday, 2 May 2002

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:50:21 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 May 2002 18:17:40 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:45:36 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Luhrmann on Romeo + Juliet

[4]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:17:25 -0400
        Subj:   Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:50:21 +0100
Subject: 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues

Don Bloom asked Annalisa Castaldo

> As a matter of curiosity, how do we know that "there
> is no absolutely universal truth"?

Annalisa Castaldo replied:

> I just know that in my studies, I've realized
> that even things I consider absolutely basic
> to human nature have, in some culture or other,
> been overturned. Various tribes have promoted
> cannibalism, the Amish do not believe in violence
> even for self-defense, the ancient Egyptian
> Pharaohs regularly practiced incest....After a
> while I just gave up and became a relativist, but
> of course that means I have to support the right
> to a view that there are universal truths!

Worse, you have to accept that your claim applies to itself: it can't
(by your own insistence) be universally true that there are no universal
truths. If so, there must be a place somewhere in which your assertion
isn't true, so there must be lurking in this place a universal truth.
The existence of this lone universal truth falsifies your initial claim.
This was sometime a paradox.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 May 2002 18:17:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1204 Re: Movies and Other Issues

> I think Brian Willis is trying to spin criticism of
> his tastes into
> criticism of himself in order to silence the
> criticism of his tastes.

????? Could you make sense please? Oh, now that I thought about it, I
understand. Hmmm. But that still means you claim a "superiority" of
taste. Which has also caused me to claim a superiority of my tastes.

> Mr Willis, I fear, tries to
> take this all too
> personally and tries to class me, with others, as
> personal attackers.  I
> made my feelings plain and gave reasons for my ire
> but on not one
> occasion did I attack a list member.

True, which is why I never mentioned you by name Sam. Who exactly is
taking this personally?

>In my view these films deserve to
> be denounced as manipulative fakes - but of course,
> that is just my
> firmly held opinion.

Please see my upcoming post on Luhrmann's new audio commentary for proof
that his take on the film was artistically inclined and thoroughly
thought through.  (hey! Unintentional alliteration) :)

> I have no hot line to God to
> check on its validity
> - Brian's view may well be divine.  I
> sympathetically suggest that
> Brian's irritation is due to his insecurity with his
> opinion.

Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. I have absolute
faith in my judgment and my opinion. To claim otherwise in the sarcastic
and caustic manner above is very SMALL of you. The above comment is
petty and very unprofessional of you. I called for more substantive
debate and in typical fashion, you provide more frivolity. What does
this have to do with Shakespeare? Why did you feel the need to do this
to me publicly by calling me out by name? I never did that to you. Take
it private if you are that offended.  To do this publicly is
embarrassing and a waste of many readers' time.

I never claimed superiority of film adaptations nor did I ever say
everything Shakespeare is "just wonderful". Please pay closer attention
to my opinions and rise above making claims on my personal security.
I'm not the one who has to sign my posts with my name in all caps SAM.

I think that you could do with some research into the methods of these
filmmakers before assuming any film utilizing Shakespeare is attempting
to exploit his name for personal profit. Taymor produced Titus as a
stage play before she even considered making a film.  Luhrmann didn't
need Shakespeare to make his name as a director since Strictly Ballroom
had done that already. I've never seen or heard of Luhrmann or Taymor on
a talk show. "Point proved"? Don't make me laugh. Just as you usually
do, you jump to conclusions too easily. It proves very little except
your personal prejudices against anything that uses Shakespeare in a
different way.

I'm very tired of reading such negativity everyday when I go into my
e-mail. As you can all very much tell, it has seeped into my own
writings and poisoned their tone. I have to bow out of this argument
since it is fruitless and it has become apparent to even me that 1) I'm
no longer having fun and 2) there's no point of writing in anger or
outrage since such opinions are always tainted by those emotions. I'm
sure many people in the list are tired of hearing me repeat myself. What
you know, you know; from this time forth I will never speak word.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:45:36 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Luhrmann on Romeo + Juliet

About a month ago, in conjunction with the release of Strictly Ballroom
and Moulin Rouge on DVD, Baz Luhrmann also released a Special Edition
DVD of Romeo + Juliet. The three films comprise his Red Curtain trilogy,
and each film is lavished with spectacular packaging and full length
production team audio commentaries.

The commentary for R+J is cracking. It reveals many of the discarded
earlier ideas for the film, and has many candid and hilarious
self-deprecating comments about the film. Baz discovers a boom mike
during the taping (!) and also reveals many of the continuity mistakes
of the film.

It also produces several unusually revealing comments about the approach
to filming Shakespeare. I have transcribed some snippets. They follow
here:

   "The idea in the whole film is to find modern day
images and equivalents that could decode the language
of Shakespeare". - Baz Luhrmann

   After many approaches to the cinematic style,
"finally we realized that...Shakespeare's language
would tell the story." - Luhrmann

   "Ironically, the thing that was incredibly
successful about this movie is that you [Baz] took the
text as written by Shakespeare and because we clash it
with a modern context, the language is clarified
because it is articulated in familiar images". -
Catherine Martin, Production Designer

   "One of the things about Shakespeare was that he
totally stole popular culture or anything of the
streets from low comedy but particularly he took
popular music and just put them in his shows because
that was a way of engaging his audience into the
storytelling. Every choice we've made in terms of
cinematic devices have been grounded in some reality
of the Elizabethan stage. That has been really our
motive in everything we've done here". - Luhrmann

   "It wasn't a world of no rules; it was a world of
rules as dictated by the text". - screenwriter Greg
Pearce

   Luhrmann on his film's tackling of (perhaps)
Shakespeare's most famous play:
   "seeing something well known in a different and
fresh light",
   "finding choices that didn't change the text per se
but utilizing it in different ways",
   "we were not the first butchers of the Bard".

Surprisingly, I found many comments that made me flinch reactively. The
brain trust behind the film had a surprising amount of knowledge of
modern scholarship. They explained how not everyone had a weapon, that
only gentlemen had weapons in Shakespeare's time, and that "landed
gentry" could do the things that his characters get away with in terms
of violence. They modeled Romeo on James Dean, Byron and Kurt Cobain.
They go into an extensive discussion of how to cut the text and what
approach to take with the language, insisting that the actors make it
their own rather than adopting a "fantastic, really ill-perceived
Victorian notion of how to play Shakespeare". This includes a discussion
of theatrical styles of playing Shakespeare, including a discussion of
Garrick, Elizabethan practice and Victorian approaches and alterations.

It is erroneous to assume that these filmmakers have no knowledge of
Shakespeare and adapt/pervert the text for their own financial benefit.
The commentary proves their skilled, no, their expert knowledge of the
text. Luhrmann and his production team belonged to the Australian
theatre before they began to make films. It is fine to dislike a film on
aesthetic grounds, but to assume ignorance and carelessness on the part
of the filmmakers without researching their approach is equally as
ignorant and careless as the accusation itself. No, it's worse. It
smacks of arrogance and elitism.

Brian Willis

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:17:25 -0400
Subject:        Accents

Somebody says something about my having an a priori dislike of Al
Pacino.  I think he's a fine actor in contemporary roles.  It's when he
clubs Shakespeare over the head and drowns him in a butt of malmsey that
I get exercised.

--Charles Weinstein

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