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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2122  Thursday, 16 December 2004

[1]     From:   Cary M. Mazer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:13:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 17:49:22 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[3]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 15:19:43 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 16:34:13 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[5]     From:   Rolland Banker <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Dec 2004 02:08:26 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2106 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary M. Mazer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:13:52 -0500
Subject: 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Charles Weinstein writes,

 >When it comes to Shakespearean
 >acting, the British have a way of confusing American cluelessness with
 >American exceptionalism.  Bored by a steady diet of home-grown
 >proficiency, they become enraptured by the novelty of sheer
 >incompetence.  This leads them into error, like the proverbial art
 >critic who mistakes a toddler's fingerpainting for a masterpiece.

One of the greatest gifts a critic can give his or her readers (and I
speak as a one-time theatre critic) is a clear indication of the
critic's tastes and prejudices.  I thank Mr. Weinstein for the gift he
has given us all.  Now we all will know how to read his review of the
Pacino film when it comes out.  Let's add Americans to his list--which
already includes queers and fatsos--of people who can't do Shakespeare
to his specifications.

Cary

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 17:49:22 -0000
Subject: 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Charles Weinstein wrote:

 >"Judging from the trailer, I doubt it; but in any case one mustn't get
excited by
 >advance raves from the United Kingdom.  When it comes to Shakespearean
 >acting, the British have a way of confusing American cluelessness with
 >American exceptionalism.  Bored by a steady diet of home-grown
 >proficiency, they become enraptured by the novelty of sheer
 >incompetence.  This leads them into error"

I don't quite know where to start rebutting Mr Weinstein's outrageous
dismissal of British cinema critics in general as credulous, cretinous
boobies who cannot discern the difference between interesting
interpretation and 'cluelessness', and Al Pacino's 'sheer incompetence'
  in particular. Of course, I accept that the travelling showman with
his wagon, stretched sheet and magic lantern has always taken a long
time to wend his way to these islands from the cradle of civilisation
and subtle judgement, so maybe I am being a little premature and
audacious in feeling patronised? Yes, maybe we are gullible as is the
way of rustics?

The cinema industry is now sufficiently cosmopolitan with American and
British actors regularly present both on the British stage and on film
that to suggest that somehow critics here are seduced by some witless
naivety by American actors is damning to both actors and critics. I will
leave aside the minor difficulty that Mr Weinstein's remarks are made on
the basis of 'the trailer' alone, whereas British critics and audiences
have actually seen the entire film.

Pacino's CV and baggage as both actor and director make him an
interesting interpreter in anyone's book, I would have thought, and
indeed the complexity of his performance raises all manner of questions.
Other exhaustive threads on this net preclude further discussion,  pace
David Basch. In purely 'theatrical' terms, Pacino commands the space and
pace of every scene he is in, his verse speaking has resonance and a
kind of polyglot edge that establishes Shylock's alienation not only
from the society of Venice, but from his daughter and the age in which
he is living. Jessica comes across as the daughter of first generation
immigrant stock, now more comfortable, more relaxed, more capable of a
balancing act, more likely to step acrtoss cultural divides, more alert
to nuance than her baffled and angry father - echoes of Miller's View
 From the Bridge? Pacino's eyes are haunted, piercing, uncomprehending,
and you get the sense that distraught though he may be when punished,
there is a dark will there. My race has survived more than this, he
seems to be suggesting, so OK, this is bad, but..........!

Others will feel like taking on Mr Weinstein in more detail.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 15:19:43 -0800
Subject: 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Mr. Weinstein comments:

 >This leads them into error, like the proverbial art
 >critic who mistakes a toddler's fingerpainting for a masterpiece.

Or perhaps the proverbial theatre critic who mistakes anything he says
to be of note.

Colin Cox

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 16:34:13 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2115 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

From: Charles Weinstein

 >"Has Pacino finally transcended his classical deficiencies? Judging from
 >the trailer, I doubt it; but in any case one mustn't get excited by
 >advance raves from the United Kingdom. When it comes to Shakespearean
 >acting, the British have a way of confusing American cluelessness with
 >American exceptionalism. Bored by a steady diet of home-grown
 >proficiency, they become enraptured by the novelty of sheer
 >incompetence. This leads them into error, like the proverbial art
 >critic who mistakes a toddler's fingerpainting for a masterpiece."

Hmmm...well, I'm actually at home in the States for the holidays but all
of the clips that I have gathered back in Stratford for my thesis praise
Pacino for his crisp verse speaking, and the Guardian reviewer said that
he could teach the other (British) actors in the film how to speak
Shakespeare. I plan to see it upon release, but I would have to say that
contradicts Charles' assessment. Besides, I'm a bit confused by his
statement: are we to believe that anyone who has an idea about such
things would be drawn towards "incompetence"? I would say one thing, and
that is knowing the background of Pacino's acting pedigree and ideology,
the last word I would use to describe the Actors Studio approach to
acting is incompetent. Misguided might be the word Charles is looking
for (although I would not describe it that way). But incompetence
denotes a level of laziness. I would not describe any "Method" actor as
such. They are the most dedicated actors to their craft. Perhaps too
much so.

Brian Willis

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rolland Banker <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 16 Dec 2004 02:08:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2106 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2106 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

 >From Charles Weinstein we have this:

Has Pacino finally transcended his classical deficiencies?  Judging from
the trailer, I doubt it; but in any case one mustn't get excited by
advance raves from the United Kingdom.  When it comes to Shakespearean
acting, the British have a way of confusing American cluelessness with
American exceptionalism.  Bored by a steady diet of home-grown
proficiency, they become enraptured by the novelty of sheer
incompetence.  This leads them into error, like the proverbial art
critic who mistakes a toddler's fingerpainting for a masterpiece.

I, Rolland, write:

Sheer Incompetence?  Tsk Tsk. Too hard. Too hard.

Generalities aside,

My dream is to write a Movie satire about the incomprehensibly inflated
classical designs and/or critical expectations of Shakespearean iambic
pentameter to most of the world, and an American leading man's utter
incompetence at it,--leading, naturally, to the most uproariously funny
and biting comedy about the smashing success of his totally
unsympathetic, unpoetical 'Stanley Kowalski-esque' interpretation of
Coriolanus. Not to mention his love affair with the director, a Flaming
French Kenneth Tynan-type(critic-director) who barely speaks English.

Bawdy. Wild. Mocking. Contemporary. The Dark Horse Hit of the
Year.--------And----------

It's full of laughs.

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