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The 10 Best Modern Takes on Shakespeare – In Pictures

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0385  Tuesday, 6 August 2013

 

From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         August 5, 2013 5:02:54 PM EDT

Subject:     The 10 Best Modern Takes on Shakespeare – In Pictures

 

I learned of this link from Dave Kathman.

 

The Observer: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2013/jun/01/the-10-best-modern-takes-shakespeare-film

 

The 10 best modern takes on Shakespeare – in pictures

As chosen by Philip French

Saturday 1 June 2013

 

Our film critic’s selection of celluloid interpretations of the Bard, from Gus Vant Sant to Jean-Luc Godard

 

Forbidden Planet

Fred McLeod Wilcox, 1956

We’ve had Paul Mazursky’s romantic Tempest about an American architect (John Cassavetes) exiling himself to a Greek island with his daughter Miranda; Peter Greenaway’s eccentrically elegant Prospero’s Books starring John Gielgud; and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest with Helen Mirren as Prospera. But the most striking adaptation is this MGM sci-fi drama set in AD2200 where Freud meets Shakespeare in a brave new world. Prospero is Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), a scientist stranded on a distant planet with his daughter. Ariel is the robot he’s built and Caliban a projection of his id, an evil force inherited from the planet’s previous occupants

 

The Bad Sleep Well

Akira Kurosawa, 1960

Kurosawa’s samurai transcriptions of Macbeth (Throne of Blood) and King Lear (Ran) are classics. His modern version of Hamlet, a thriller its theme that something’s rotten in the state of Japan), is little known but far more significant than Aki Kaurismäki’s Hamlet Goes Business (1987) or Michael Almereyda’s Manhattan Hamlet (2000). The Bad Sleep Well subtly reworks Hamlet in modern Tokyo, where Kurosawa’s favourite actor, Toshiro Mifune, plays the son of a murdered tycoon who penetrates a crooked conglomerate to exact revenge on his father’s usurper. He marries his Ophelia-like daughter and engages with local stand-ins for Polonius and Laertes

 

West Side Story

Robert Wise, 1961

Cinematic variations on Romeo and Juliet range from André Cayatte’s 1949 Les amants de Vérone (Anouk Aimée and Serge Reggiani as understudies in an Italian film of Shakespeare’ play) through Peter Ustinov’s cold war comedy Romanoff and Juliet (1961) to Baz Luhrman’s Florida-set Romeo + Juliet (1996). But the pre-eminent modernisation is, and seems likely to remain, the great 1957 Broadway musical with a book by Arthur Laurents that relocates the feud to the world of New York’s teenage street gangs, with songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It won 10 Oscars

 

My Own Private Idaho

Gus Van Sant, 1991

Orson Welles plays Falstaff in one of the greatest Shakespearian movies, Chimes at Midnight (1966), which conflates Henry IV, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Georgian director Otar Iosseliani draws on a euphuistic speech by Falstaff for the title of his French movie Favourites of the Moon. Reworking Henry IV, Gus Van Sant’s road movie My Own Private Idaho stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as gay drifters on a mythic quest in the American northwest. The modern relationship between Prince Hal, Henry IV and Falstaff merges Shakespeare’s text with scabrous demotic American

 

Men of Respect

William Reilly, 1991

Transposed to medieval Japan by Kurosawa as Throne of Blood, Macbeth retains its tragic grandeur. Restaged in New York, it becomes a vigorous gangster film. John Turturro plays Mike Battaglia, trusted henchman of mafia capo Rod Steiger, shooting his way to the top, egged on by his wife Ruthie. “There’s not a man born of woman can do shit to me,” he claims, unaware that his rival, Irish hoodlum Matt Duffy (Peter Boyle), was delivered by Caesarian (or should that be Little Caesarian?) section in a Manhattan taxi. Far superior to the similar British Joe MacBeth (1955)

 

King Lear

Jean-Luc Godard, 1987

The greatest screen version of Lear is Ran. In A Thousand Acres (1997), based on Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer prize novel, farmer Larry Cook (Jason Robards) unwisely divides his vast property between daughters Ginny, Rose and Caroline: an ingenious feminist work, but alas not even an also-Ran. Unquestionably the most extraordinary treatment is Godard’s rarely seen film (aka Three Journeys Into King Lear) starring American stage director Peter Sellars as Shakespeare Jr and Burgess Meredith as ex-mafia capo Don Learo. Woody Allen appears in the final moments as the Fool editing the film

 

10 Things I Hate About You

Gil Junger, 1999

“America’s sweethearts” of the silent era, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, made a ridiculed sound debut in The Taming of the Shrew. Their successors as public lovers, Burton and Taylor, starred in Zeffirelli’s moderately decent 1967 version. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara appeared in an Irish Shrew (Ford’s The Quiet Man) and a western take (Andrew McLaglen’s McLintock!). There’s also Kiss Me Kate. But none has been funnier, cleverer than this recreation of Shakespeare’s sex war comedy in Padua high school, Seattle, where the Stratford sisters are respectively a beautiful conformist and a football-playing feminist. A perfect fit

 

Love’s Labour’s Lost 

Kenneth Branagh, 2000

As actor-director, Branagh has done respectful versions of Henry V, Hamlet and Much Ado. But this bold, beguiling treatment of a comedy often compared to a Mozart opera shifts the scene to 1939 England where the King of Navarre and his three chums abjure female company to study at Oxbridge. The text is cut to the bone, information conveyed by pastiche newsreels, and the Anglo-American cast enjoy themselves, breaking into songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Kern and Porter with Hermes Pan-Busby Berkeley-style 30s choreography. The heroes leave for war to the strains of They Can’t Take That Away From Me

 

O

Tim Blake Nelson, 2002

Othello has been subjected to a variety of imaginative transpositions, among them Catch My Soul (a rock version starring Richie Havens), the British jazz club melodrama All Night Long, and the Delmer Daves western Jubal. But most effective perhaps is O, set in an exclusive boarding school in the deep south where the only African-American is basketball star Odin (Mekhi Phifer), who courts the dean’s daughter, Desi (Julia Stiles), and is targeted for destruction by rival Hugo (Josh Hartnett). Shelved for two years because of the Columbine high school massacre, it became a US box-office success

 

Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes, 2011

In her screen debut, stage director Julie Taymor turned Shakespeare’s first tragedy Titus Andronicus into Titus (1999), a cruel, fantastical affair set in a world part ancient Rome, part Mussolini's fascist Italy. Joseph L Mankiewicz’s rightly celebrated Julius Caesar (1953) was an orthodox toga-and-sandals production. Both respected the text, as does Fiennes as director and star in his pared Coriolanus, Shakespeare’s uningratiating final tragedy. But he shot it in present-day Serbia, the film reeks of the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia, and it’s a visceral experience, photographed in combat-camera style by Barry Ackroyd, who shot The Hurt Locker

 
 

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