The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2055 Tuesday, 7 December 2004
From: Richard Burt <
Date: Friday, 3 Dec 2004 10:51:37 -0500
Subject: The Merchant of Venice Pacino Film Review
The Merchant of Venice
Friday December 3, 2004
Al Pacino: 'A cool, considered Shylock'
A pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood. Four hundred years on,
Shakespeare's satirical nightmare on the theme of the kosher ritual
retains its power to offend, to challenge, to subvert, and to trigger
debates on antisemitism in canonical English literature. His Jew,
Shylock, is not crouching in some estaminet of Antwerp but right up on
stage, flinging defiance in his oppressors' teeth, devastating their
hypocrisy and cruelty, angrily asserting the only identity available to
him within the gentiles' culture and, in a final speech, lacerating
Christian Europe's reliance on slavery. But he is also grasping,
cantankerous and, in private, appears to equate his daughter with money;
he winds up being brutally humiliated, and further abased by having his
comeuppance made subordinate in narrative importance to the final,
simperingly romantic "ring" scene between the lovely Portia and her
impetuous suitor Bassanio.
Michael Radford's fresh, lucid and unpretentious screen revival of The
Merchant of Venice is raised above the commonplace by a brilliant
performance from Al Pacino as Shylock. The role offers opportunities for
the wildest thesp grandstanding, and with Pacino so often given to
croaky shouting and preening, you might be fearing the worst.
[ . . . ]
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