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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Pop Culture
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1456  Thursday, 17 July 2003

[1]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Sunday, 13 Jul 2003 21:26:11 -0400
        Subj:   Two Shakespeare related TV / film comedies

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Jul 2003 22:29:09 -0400
        Subj:   Pop Culture

[3]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jul 2003 11:50:47 -0400
        Subj:   Sieben Sommersprossen


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Sunday, 13 Jul 2003 21:26:11 -0400
Subject:        Two Shakespeare related TV / film comedies

In the TNT movie Prince Charming (official website at
http://www.tnt.tv/Title/Display/0,5918,342114,00.html), a fairytale
prince and his servant transported to NYC, where they run into a cast
rehearsing A Midsumer Night's Dream.  The Prince is cast as Peaseblossom
but decides he wants to play "Oberon, King of the faeries" instead.
Christina Applegate plays the love interest, and Bernadette Peters stars
as an over-the-hill diva who is playing the part of Titania.

The 1986 romantic comedy Nobody's Fool (dir. Evelyn Purcell) takes
places in a Western town in which a young loser woman (Rosanna Arquete)
falls in love with a loser stage manger of a travelling Shakespeare
troupe.  They are performing The Tempest and running a free workshiop
for the local townspeople.  Arquette does "Juliet's Come night" and
there's a brief, comic version of Macbeth's "is this a dagger" speech.
The film has affinities with The Playboys (dir. GiIlies McKinnon, 1991).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 15 Jul 2003 22:29:09 -0400
Subject:        Pop Culture

MV on ATWT today.

Long lost Paul (recast Roger Howarth) comes upon his beloved Rose (who
thinks he's dead)  in an elevator.

Rose: You're not Paul. Who are you? Who sent you?...You are not really
you. You're not Paul.

Paul: I am. I'm flesh and blood and hands and eyes, affections,
passions, if you cut me then I'll bleed, if you poison me, I'll die.

Rose faints.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jul 2003 11:50:47 -0400
Subject:        Sieben Sommersprossen

The East German film Sieben Sommersprossen (Seven Freckles, dir.Herrmann
Zschoche, 1978; DEFA, sound, col.,76 mins) centers on an amateur
performance of Romeo and Juliet.

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0078264

Two young teens from quasi-dysfunctional families meet up at a summer
camp and fall in love.  A camp counsellor sets up a performance of R and
J and casts the camp children.  The teen boy (Robert) plays Romeo, but
the teen girl (Karoline) is not playing Juliet, however.  Her prettier
friend Bettina is. But Karoline has a dream in which she is Juliet and
meets Romeo at the Capulet Ball.  Shakespeare, with the guidance of a
progressive camp counsellor and his girlfriend, serves a therapeutic
function of helping the kids grow up and work through their romantic
problems.  Bettina becomes jealous when she learns that Robbie prefers
Karoline, and she falsely slanders Karoline's sexual behavior when
Karoline and Robbie are late back to camp after their borrowed
motorcycle runs out of gas.  The authoritarian Camp leader (who recalls
Miss Ballbricka of Porky's 2) then wants to send Karoline home and close
down the Romeo and Juliet production for having a negative influence.
More interestingly, while foregrounding romantic love, the film suggests
that the collective is the best means for working through personal
problems involving romantic couples and triangles. The other girls
insist that Bettina tell the truth or they will, and Robbie volunteers
to go as well. The camp counsellor, who casts himself as Friar Laurence
tells Robbie he should stay for the sake of the others and their work
("die ganze Arbeit"). Robbie himself goes to Bettina to tell her she
must tell the truth, but Karoline, alone in her camp room (an open space
like a barracks full of bunk beds) she sees Bettina and Robbie from a
distance and mistakenly concludes that he has betrayed her.  When she
runs off, two young children (6-7, I'd guess) who have been periodically
spying on them call after her and then run to tell Robbie.   She returns
to a pond they had gone skinny dipping in and fantasizes her suicide by
drowning (in a shot that cites Millais' Ophelia) and funeral, with
Robbie dead as well.  She decides to get out of the water and not down
herself, but a loon takes off and surprises her.  She falls and hits her
head a rock. Robbie discovers her before she drowns, but then he
stumbles as he carries Karoline up a hill, and he gets knocked out by
the Fall.  The two lovers wake up but play dead as they are discovered
by the entire camp.  The film is more like A Midsummer Night's Dream
than R and J.  The theater production continues, very clearly as a
collective effort.  (The camp leader gives in, reluctantly.)  After
Bettina is stung by a bee, she is replaced by Karoline.  The scenes from
Romeo and Juliet alternate between being shot as if natural (only birds
and so on the soundtrack in the balcony scene) and as cinematic (the
death scene is shot at the start and end with music and the two actors
are in period costume-the mis-en-scene vaguely recalls that of
Zeffirelli's 1968 film).  The death scene also includes Friar Laurence,
and the after Juliet's speech, he comes on stage with all the rest of
the cast (very young kids) and gives part of his final speech.  As the
film ends, we see a medium shot focusing on Robbie and Karoline smiling
at each other, and music form their and dipping interlude plays.  Then
the film ends.  Again, the couple are framed, as in the play, by a wider
social world.  Shakespeare as live theater and printed book is also
opposed in the film to mass media.  We first see Robbie in a car with a
handheld transistor on playing loud rock music, and he later gives the
radio to Karoline when she is alone in bed, sick.  The radio disappears,
after that scene, and Shakespeare takes over.  The film manages to seem
contemporary and progressive while preserving high culture and a
collective sensibility that does not sacrifice romance (or vice versa).
Gender hierarchies are played off against age / your hierarchies in an
almost contrapuntal. Youth triumps over age. The parents are almost
entirely absent, with the counselor standing in as "Father."  The more
progressive aspects of the GDR with respect to gender are not exactly
fulfilled here.  The camp leader is a woman, and she gives him when a
man with a horse shows up and supports the R and J production.   The
counsellor's girlfriend, also a counselor, is more deferential to the
leader and does not participate in the R and J production.  Moreover,
the triangle involves two girls fighting over a boy. But the film is
more Karoline's story than Robbie's, and we interactions among the girls
are given equal time, perhaps more time, with the boys. And in the
production, Old Capulet is played as entirely brutish while both Lady
Capulet and the Nurse are played sympathetically.  There's also a
anti-Faschismus unconscious in the film.  Despite the critique of the
radio (installed in very home soon after the Nazis came to power in
1933) and of gymnastics and calisthenics (associated with the director),
the children and especially Robbie and Karoline are shot in a kind of
kitschy way found often in Nazi Liebenskult and Lebenskult photos.
Sieben Sommersprossen is available on video and DVD (in German only; no
English subtitles) from amazon.de.

There's also an East German musical called Geliebte weise Maus (Beloved
White Mouse, dir. Gottfried Kolditz, 1964) that has a reference to Romeo
and Juliet.

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0058134

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