Sunday, August 31, 2008

King Lear and Job

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.
Shakespeare never merely allegorizes biblical figures or passages, but, occasionally, a passage from the Bible and a passage from Shakespeare seem to deeply related. This passage from Job seems to have been transmuted into one of Lear's more famous scenes, if not to any specific speech.

Here's Job 23:5-8:
Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert
the poor go out to their toil, seeking game;
the wasteland yields food for their children.
They gather their fodder in the field,
and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.
They lie all night naked, without clothing,
and have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the rain of the mountains
and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.
And here's part of Lear III.iv that seems to point toward that.
Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come, unbutton here.
It's impossible to calculate the exact degree to which Shakespeare was indebted to the Bible (if "indebted" is even the right term), but it's clear that he had imbibed vast portions of the Bible over a vast range of time.  If you read enough of both of them, you start to get a sense of how much reading either gives you more of the other.

Click below to purchase a Bible from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Link: Anthony Hopkins as Lear

Ryan, Dermot.  "Hollywood Heavyweights Fly in for a Reel Taste of Shakespeare." Herald.ie. 1 July 2008.
I've been at the State Fair all day, which hasn't left much time for posting. However, I remembered this article on a forthcoming film version of Lear. Although I loved Sir Ian McKellen's Lear, I think Anthony Hopkins will do marvelously well, thanks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brief Lear Reference in Season One of Slings and Arrows

“A Mirror up to Nature.” Deleted Scene. By Susan Coyne. Dir. Peter Wellington. Perf. Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis, Susan Coyne, Stephen Ouimette, Catherine Fitch, Rachel McAdams, and Luke Kirby. Slings and Arrows. Season 1, episode 5. Movie Central: Canada. 1 December 2003. DVD. Acorn Media, 2006-2007.
You know that I can't say enough good things about Slings and Arrows. This clip takes a lighthearted look (you didn't think it was possible, did you?) at the "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks" speech from III.ii. 

The character playing the character playing Hamlet has been refusing to use the exact words of the speeches, preferring, instead, to paraphrase the lines until he's able to internalize him. In this scene, deleted from the broadcast but included on the DVD, he finally starts using Shakespeare's words. Later in the scene, in something of an epiphany, he break out in Lear—showing that he's actually perfectly capable of using the language. Check it out:

video
Do you wonder what the guy in the car is doing, phoning someone after witnessing that performance? Well, get the series and watch it! Enjoy!

Links: Wikipedia Entry on the Series.

Click below to purchase the show from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

King Lear as Marketing Device?

“Showpiece: Wanton.” Straighty 180. 27 August 2008.
One of the most devastating speeches in Lear is Gloucester's to Edgar at IV.i.28-39:
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.
You wouldn't think that those lines would easily lend themselves to commodification. But the people of Straighty 180 alter these lines slightly and use them to market . . . marketing itself. Or, at least, to market themselves. See the startling, distrubing ad below:


[Like] flies to wanton [girls] are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.


Links: Straighty 180.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing": Brian Blessed as King Lear

King Lear. Dir. Brian Blessed. Perf. Brian Blessed, Hildegard Neil, Jason Riddington, and Phillippa Peak. 1999. DVD. Storm Bird, 2006.
Note: "Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing" is a line delivered by the Fool in King Lear (III.i.12-13).

Today is the first day of class, and I'm feeling a bit like Lear in the storm. I thought it would be wise, therefore, to take a look at one version of that scene on the blasted heath.

When they asked who could play Lear, one of the producers' nephews answered, "Good nuncle, in, and ask for Brian Blessed."

Blessed plays Lear and directs the play. He makes an interesting decision about the storm scene. Like Welles' Macbeth, Blessed's Lear has some soliloquies in voiceover. Observe:

video

I'm not entirely sure I like it . . . but it is interesting. And Brian Blessed has a marvelous presence.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Regan to Chill the Bone

King Lear. Dir. Michael Elliott. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely, John Hurt, Diana Rigg, and Leo McKern. 1983. DVD. Kultur Video, 2000.
One of the many, many-and-manifold reasons the Olivier Lear is so astounding is Diana Rigg. She can give a single look that embodies violence, death, and destruction. And she can do it right after a look that expresses the deepest empathy.

The clip below is from the end of Act III. That point in the play gives us one of the many, many-and-manifold decisions that a director must make that can change the timbre of the entire play. In blinding Gloucester, Cornwall has been injured; he asks Regan to help him. Take a look at how this Regan helps her husband:

video


Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Lear Week Begins . . . with East Hastings: The Musical!

“Vex Not His Ghost.” By Susan Coyne. Dir. Peter Wellington. Perf. Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis, Susan Coyne, Stephen Ouimette, Catherine Fitch, and William Hutt. Slings and Arrows. Season 3, episode 2. Movie Central: Canada. 31 July 2006. DVD. Acorn Media, 2006-2007.
I know you've been looking forward to Lear Week at Bardfilm. We all have. Well, I have. And one reason is that I get to return to talking about Slings and Arrows.

Slings and Arrows is one of the three most brilliant television programs of the past ten years. And I think I would say that even if it weren't Shakespeare-related. (But it is, and that give it additional interest). The three seasons of the show take us through the lives of the actors, directors, administrators, and audiences of a Shakespeare festival in Canada. It's a dark comedy, and it's almost unbearably funny, witty, cheeky, touching, and true.

Each season gives us a different Shakespeare play to contemplate: Season One involves Hamlet, Season Two deals with Macbeth, and Season Three concentrates on Lear

And on East Hastings: The Musical.

As it deals with King Lear, it shows us how the frustrations of Lear spill over into the lives of the actors. William Hutt plays the actor who plays Lear, and his character (characters?) desperately tries to be in control of every aspect of the play, his life, the other actors' lives, and the world. Like Lear, however, he finds he is unable to do so.

Here's a clip that gives us an overview of Lear's plot—as well as the plot of the big new musical also being staged at the festival that season. The director, Geoffrey Tennant, whom you'll see first, has been bursting into unexplained tears throughout the season. He does so at the beginning of the clip, leaving the William Hutt character in charge of giving a synopsis of the play.

video

Links: Episode List at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

As the Olympic Games Close, a Hamlet Derivative Set in Ancient China Comes to Mind

The Legend of the Black Scorpion. [a.k.a. The Banquet (Ye Yan)]. Dir. Feng Xiaogang. Perf. Zhang Ziyi, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Ge You, Ma Jingwu. 2006. DVD. Dragon Dynasty, 2008.
The Legend of the Black Scorpion was mentioned earlier—and even earlier—in this Microblog's history, but I think it might be the ideal film to watch on the iTouch. It's subtitled, so I can watch it even when earphones would be too obvious—like during faculty meetings.   Just kidding!  Ha, ha!  For the most part! 

It's beautifully filmed, demonstrating the clarity of the iTouch. And it's Hamlet-related—but with some very interesting plot variations. It's the Goldberg Variations of Hamlet, in fact, constantly taking us in new and exciting direcitons but never losing the beauty of the original.

Unless I'm convinced otherwise, I'll start that film when I have time.

(I'm operating under the assumption that the "One touch of nature" comment was not a suggestion to watch a version of Troilus and Cressida first.)

Tomorrow, Lear Week at Bardfilm begins!

Links: Previous Post One. Previous Post Two.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stop the Presses! (I've always wanted to say that).

The iTouch.
Hold everything!

My lovely, lovely family went in together to get me a lovely, lovely birthday gift. Yes, an iTouch. I'm amazed. It's astonishing. I've had an iPod for five years (it was the gift my lovely, lovely bride gave me for completing the Ph.D.), and it revolutionized the way I listen to music. Now the iTouch is poised to do the same to the way I watch videos, browse the internet, send e-mail, check the weather, get directions, keep up with podcasts, and so on, and so on, and so on.

So, first, thank you very much, family! Wow. I'm speechless.

And second, what shall I watch first?

That's where you come in! I have a few ideas of what Shakespeare-related film I should watch first on my new iTouch, but I'm open to suggestions. Should it be the Branagh Hamlet, testing the battery strength to the fullest? Or should it be something lighter and shorter, like the 1929 Taming of the Shrew?

Post your suggestions in the comments below!

And, again, thank you.

Click below to purchase an iTouch from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hamlet 2 Opens Today.

Hamlet 2. Dir. Andrew Fleming. Screenplay by Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming. Perf. Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, and Elisabeth Shue. Focus, 22 August 2008.
Holden, Stephen. “The Rest was Silence, but Then Came the Sequel.” New York Times 22 August 2008.

The New York Times has a review of Hamlet 2 this morning (the film opens today—in only one theatre in our area). It’s not a great review, but it’s not a complete pan, either. When things are less busy, I hope to see it. As soon as I do, I’ll post an evaluation of the film.

Links: Trailer. Official site. Previous Post One. Previous Post Two. Previous Post Three.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lear Week is Coming! Also, a New Poll.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. R. A. Foakes. Arden Shakespeare. London: Routledge, 1997.

This morning, I need to offer a few words of a devotional nature to the assembled faculty of my college—it's nearly all ready already, though it needs (as always) a bit of polishing—and I'm busily trying to decide whether allusions to Henry V will work better than allusions to Measure for Measure. The audience will be, I expect, more familiar with the former, but the latter would give me greater opportunity for close reading, which is part of the point of the message of the day. But perhaps I should concentrate my efforts on avoiding strings of prepositional phrases instead.

All that to say that the last poll indicated that readers would rather have a week devoted to King Lear than to any of the other options. Starting on Monday, therefore, it will be Lear Week at Bardfilm. It will also be the first week of classes, which always leaves me feeling like I'm out on a blasted heath, so it will all work together nicely.

Meanwhile, a new poll invites you to choose which of several films that have not been released on DVD you would most like to have released on DVD. You can only choose one, folks—but, whichever one you choose, I will make inquiries to the studio(s) in question and see what they have to say!

Click below to purchase the Arden Edition of the Play from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Books You'll Die to Read

Boxall, Peter, Gen. Ed. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. New York: Universe, 2006.
As you remember, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die lists only one Shakespeare film (and two adaptations, both by Kurosawa) that we all must see. I thought that number was a little too low.
So I thought I’d see what 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die had to offer in the way of Shakespeare.
By way of introduction, let me ask a question. Do you think you read more plays by Shakespeare or more novels by Dorothy L. Sayers before you die? Come on, now. Which? And bear in mind that I have nothing against D. L. Sayers—she’s amazing, and she wrote a total of eleven delightful novels (as well as numerous articles, translations, theological works, and so on—but we’ll just stick to the novels for now).

Well, you know what I think. You should read Sayers—but you should read more Shakespeare than Sayers. Especially if you’re thinking about what you should accomplish before you die.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die declares that we must read (before we die) not even one play by Shakespeare. By way of contrast, it says no less than two novels by Dorothy L. Sayers will be adequate before we shuffle off this mortal coil (a quote from, I believe, Murder Must Advertise).  

Get to it, everyone! You must read 18% of Sayers’ novel output before you die. But you only have to read 0% of Shakespeare’s plays.

Links: Previous post.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Why must the show go on?" Because of films like this!

A Midwinter’s Tale [a.k.a. In the Bleak Midwinter]. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Richard Briers, Hetta Charnley, Joan Collins, Nicholas Farrell, Mark Hadfield, Gerard Horan, Celia Imrie, Michael Maloney, Jennifer Saunders, Julia Sawalha, and John Sessions. 1995. Videocassette. Turner, 1999.
I haven’t been able to get Branagh’s A Midwinter’s Tale (for which q.v.) out of my mind, and I thought we’d all enjoy the opening two minutes—in a combination of text and video.

video
Joe Harper: It was late November, I think, and I was thinking about the whole Christmas thing: the birth of Christ, The Wizard of Oz, Family Murders, and, quite frankly, I was depressed. I mean—you know, I had always wanted to live my life like in an old movie. Sort of fairy tale, you know? Mind you, I suppose if you think that a lot of fairy tales turn out to be nightmares and a lot of old movies are crap, then that’s what I did.

Links: Previous Post on the Subject. Previous Previous Post on the Subject.  

Click below to purchase the film—or the shooting script!—from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, August 18, 2008

One-Man Romeo and Juilet: A Fragment from Extras

“Episode 2.1.” By Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Perf. Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen, and Orlando Bloom. Dir. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Extras. Season 2, episode 1. BBC / HBO. 14 September 2006. DVD. Universal Pictures Video, 2007.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Extras has heavy doses of Shakespeare mixed in every now and then. The clip below contains an aspiring actor’s one-man version of
Romeo and Juliet
. It really gets me.

video


Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Silent Tempest—Video Post

The Tempest. Silent Shakespeare. Dir. Percy Stow. Perf. Unknown. 1908. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.

The silent Tempest is about twelve minutes long. I edited the version below down to the under-ten-minutes requirement, but it's still very complete. And very enjoyable.

So enjoy!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this clip is temporarily (or permanently) unavailable.

Thank you for your understanding.

—The Management


Click below to purchase the fabulous collection of silent films from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Back to the Silent Tempest

The Tempest. Silent Shakespeare. Dir. Percy Stow. Perf. Unknown. 1908. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.

I managed to take another look at the silent version of The Tempest that I had mentioned earlier.  Spinster Aunt's list of silent movies for people who [think that they] don't like silent movies contained no Shakespeare films—scandalous!—and I wanted to recommend one.

I actually recommended a 1920 silent German version of Hamlet (more on that later), but I've been thinking that I should have mentioned this again.  Thinking back on it, I thought it was about thirty minutes long.  It's actually only twelve or thirteen.  They managed to put so much in in such a short amount of time!

Naturally, as Spinster Aunt remarks, the language of Shakespeare is, for the most part, lost in a silent film . . . but that's part of what makes these films so remarkable as films.

Anyway, more on all that later.  I keep having to remind myself that this is a MicroBlog and that my posts should be shorter.

p.s.  And it also has fabulous title cards.  Look at that color in "The dicsovery of Caliban" above!  Wow!

Click below to purchase the fabulous collection of silent films from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Let the Buzz Begin!

Hamlet 2. Dir. Andrew Fleming. Screenplay by Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming. Perf. Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, and Elisabeth Shue. Focus, 22 August 2008.
This has nothing to do with Writer’s Block Wine. It’s the opening of Hamlet 2 in one week’s time!

Apple’s blog points us to a trailer and mentions that Steve Coogan will be at the SoHo Apple store to discuss the film.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film for a long time (as you can see here and here), even though the trailer seems a bit too slapsticky. Perhaps that’s just to garner a wider audience. Or maybe it reflects the reality of the film. I’ll let you know after I see it!

Links: Trailer.   Official site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Extra Shakespeare from Extras

“Episode 2.5.” By Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Perf. Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen, Sir Ian McKellen, Germaine Greer, Mark Kermode and Mark Lawson. Dir. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Extras. Season 2, episode 5. BBC / HBO. 12 October 2006. DVD. Universal Pictures Video, 2007.
Extras continues to provide Shakespearean fodder (another was mentioned previously). Because the BBC series Shakespeare Retold came to mind this morning, I remembered this exchange.

Our protagonist wants to do something more serious than a terrible sitcom to increase his acting credibility, so he asks his agent about the possibilities. Here’s the conversation (starting with the line in the image above):
Darren (the agent): BBC are doing more of those modern adaptations of Shakespeare.

Andy (the protagonist): Right.

Darren: Doing King Lear.

Andy [Interested]: Okay. Who’s playing Lear?

Darren: Tom Bosley.

Andy: No.
Lovely. Just lovely.

And here’s an extra picture for you:


Links: The official site for Extras.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shakespeare at the Olympics

Love’s Labour’s Lost. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh and Alessandro Nivola. 2000. DVD. Miramax, 2000.

Ethel Merman meets Dawn Fraser in this Shakespearean tribute to the Olympics.

Actually, I suppose it's a long way to go, but sweatervestboy's post, coupled with Olympic Fever, reminded me of this scene from Branagh's film adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The progression from Olympics to Synchronized Swimming to Branagh to Love’s Labour’s Lost to Shakespeare is a long one, but the fact that they're singing Irving Berlin's "No Strings (I'm Fancy Free)" connects us back to Shakespeare because . . . um . . . Shakespeare uses the word "romancy" in his sonnets? Or because Oberon describes the "Imperial votaress" as "fancy-free" in Act II, scene i of A Midsummer Night's Dream? Well, I'm sure there's a reason somewhere. Just enjoy it.

video


Links: Sweatervestboy's blog.
Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale Trailer

A Midwinter’s Tale [a.k.a. In the Bleak Midwinter]. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Richard Briers, Hetta Charnley, Joan Collins, Nicholas Farrell, Mark Hadfield, Gerard Horan, Celia Imrie, Michael Maloney, Jennifer Saunders, Julia Sawalha, and John Sessions. 1995. Videocassette. Turner, 1999.
I've mentioned this brilliant, brilliant film before, but I noticed (as I was doing a periodic check to see if the film had been released on DVD yet—it hasn't, more's the pity) that a trailer was available. I'm only able to show it here in an Adobe Flash, amazon.com-related manner (see below), but it's clearly worth it.

The film involves a down-on-his-luck actor (not played by Branagh, but played by an actor clearly trying to play the part as close to the way Branagh would play it as possible) who wants to put on a production of Hamlet to invigorate his career. At Christmas. In a village called Hope. With a bunch of actors even further down on their luck than he is. It's great.

I'll also post, as a bonus, the audition clip I posted earlier. Perhaps it's time to start a grassroots campaign to get this film out to the viewing, paying public on DVD!  Are you listening, Turner?

The Trailer for the Film:


The clip from the auditions scene:

video

Links: Previous Post on the Subject.

Click below to purchase the film—or the shooting script!—from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Henry V: Shakespeare as Marketing Device

Playstation 3 Advertisement. June 2008.
An alert reader send me a link to this advertisement. It uses the St. Crispin's Day Speech to create a sense of community among the gamers playing on the Playstation 3 video game console. Whether I condone this use of Shakespeare remains to be seen—however, I do recognize the power of the speech and the attempt to harness it to sell, sell, sell!

As you watch, note the subtle change from "upon St. Crispin's Day" to "upon this day." It makes the appeal much more immediate—"'This day?' did they say? Why . . . today is 'this day!' Let's grab our controllers and play—I don't want to hold my manhood cheap (whatever that means)." The elision of the phrase "in England" serves a similar function.

video

[Note: At one point, the ad with video was pulled from YouTube; however, I found a version with audio only. If you'd like to see this one, you can close your eyes and imagine that you're being shown images from a video game or you can follow along with the text as it's presented to you.]


For comparison, here's the relevant, unexpurgated portion of the speech:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (Henry V, IV.iii.60-67)

Links: The video at YouTube.

Click below to purchase the video game console from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Tempestuous Thought—and a New Poll!

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1656-88.
The quote used for the tag line in this blog is from The Tempest.   You can see it in the image to the right, and it also appears as the footer to the blog as a whole.  

But here is the text—just in case you need it typed up and punctuated:
The very instant that I saw you did
My heart fly to your service, there resides,
To make me slave to it; and, for your sake,
Am I this patient [b]log-man.  (III.i.64-67)
The good people at Bardfilm patiently blog along, trying to keep us all informed of the latest developments in the field of Shakespeare and Film.

You can help!  You may e-mail Bardfilm with suggestions or developments.  Or you may simply participate in the recent poll (to the right of this post), indicating which play you'd like to see Bardfilm spend a week with.

Thank you very much!

Links: E-mail Bardfilm.

Click below to purchase the complete works from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, August 11, 2008

A few final showers before the clouds of Tempest week scatter

The Tempest. Silent Shakespeare. Dir. Percy Stow. Perf. Unknown. 1908. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.

The Tempest. Dir. Derek Jarman. Perf. Heathcote Williams, Karl Johnson, Jack Birkett, and Toyah Willcox. 1979. Kino Video, 2000.

The Tempest. Shakespeare:  The Animated Tales. Dir. Stanislav Sokolov. Perf. Martin Jarvis, Timothy West, and Alun Armstrong. 1992. DVD. Ambrose Video, 2004.

I just wanted to mention (this is a MicroBlog, after all) three additional productions of The Tempest—and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

First, a 1908 silent version. I don’t have it with me at this moment, but I was surprised at just how advanced the techniques were for that year. It had a more convincing shipwreck than the BBC versions, some nice sudden disappearances of Ariel, and a much longer runtime than I expected. It’s available in a really remarkable DVD with a number of other silent version of Shakespeare plays.

Second, the Jarman Tempest. Whenever I read about Jarman, he seems to be described as the darling of the critics. I’m glad he’s somebody’s darling. I haven’t re-watched his version, but I did glance at it again. It’s a dark, often foul version with a fair amount of nudity (and nudity that is somehow different in quality than Greenaway’s film’s . . . it’s possibly still artistic, but for decidedly different purposes). All in all, it’s too avant-garde for my tastes. Watch this one at your own aesthetic and moral risk.

Finally, there’s a delightful animated version intended for a younger audience. Part of the twelve-play Animated Shakespeare series, this Tempest is bright and airy, with a genuinely funny (albeit quite strange) Caliban.

Click below to purchase the films from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Granddaddy of Modern Tempests

Prospero's Books. Dir. Peter Greenaway. Perf. Sir John Guelgud, Michael Clark, Isabelle Pasco, and Orpheo. 1991. Videocassette. Media / Video Treasures, 1996.
In 1991, Peter Greenaway released Prospero's Books, a dense, deep, dark derivitive of The Tempest.  It's not for everyone.

Prospero's Books is another film I'm glad to have seen in the theatre—even more so because it (amazingly) hasn't been released on DVD yet.  Sir John Gielgud speaks / reads / recites nearly every line in the play in the film in the audio track in the screenplay in the director's vision.  And if all that layering is confusing, wait until you see the film.  

The film is layered, the screen often split into two or four or more two-dimensional segments and just as many (or more) three-dimensional ones.  

Does anyone remember Myst, the computer game set on an island where mysteries abound?  Watching Prospero's Books is very much like playing that game.  (Note:  The game was released in 1993, so a Greenawayian influence is entirely possible.)

But I don't recall any nudity in the computer game; however, it's very hard to find a scene in the film that doesn't have nudity.  

For that reason alone, the film is not for all viewers.  The nudity is, I suppose, part of an artistic vision rather than an intention to titillate, but it's pervasive. 

Below is the (nudity-free) epilogue to the film.  The splash of water toward the end is part of the rich and strange visual layering. 

video

Until it comes out on DVD, the film will be something of a rarity.  If your library has a copy, give it a try!

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film (only available on VHS, alas) 
Or the relevant computer game (now available on DVD-ROM)
from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Straightforward Version of The Tempest

The Tempest. Dir. John Gorrie. Perf. Michael Hordern, Warren Clarke, Pippa Guard, and David Dixon. 1980. DVD. Ambrose Video, 2001.
From a fragment and through a few derivative works, we arrive at a film version of the play itself.  The BBC Tempest is a straitforward production.  There are very few surprises here.  Ariel is a waif-like wisp who tends to disappear in a Kurosawa-esque wipe.  Miranda is Miranda.  The storm is a BBC sound stage storm.

Michael Hordern, who plays Prospero, is one of those English actors who have been around for sixty years or so and has been in tons of things.  He played Baptista in the Zeffirelli Taming of the Shrew, for example.  He's a solid Prospero.

In his version of Prospero's speech at V.i.44-57,  the surprise here is that the speech (unlike Patrick Stewart's fragmentary version) doesn't build to a climax.  Instead, the camera pulls away from Prospero as he starts to disclaim power, and the final line ("And deeper than did ever plummet sound / I'll drown my book") is almost thrown away.  It's a metaphor.  I'm sure of it.  As he distances himself from his So Potent Art, we are distanced from him.

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Planet, Island . . . What's the Difference?

Forbidden Planet. Dir. Fred M. Wilcox. Perf. Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen. 1956. Warner Home Video, 2000.
The Plots of The Tempest and Forbidden Planet are said to be amazingly similar in quite a large number of publications.

I suppose the similarities are mainly in characters.  The plot of this science fiction classic (and it really is a classic, influencing many films that followed it and entering pop culture in the same way that things like "Soylent Green" or "Resistance is futile" have) contains a lot more death and destruction and general mayhem than Shakespeare's play.

And it also contains Robby, the Robot!  Hurrah!  I'm sure you've seen this Caliban analogue.  He became the quintessential icon of sci. fi. robots, even making it into The Simpsons on at least two occasions.  I also suspect that Marvin (of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame) owes a great deal to Robby.

Robby is interesting because he's something of the opposite—or, I suppose, the enlightened or Rousseau-inspired version—of Caliban.  

Anyway, without giving any spoilers, you also have analogues for Prospero and Miranda (they landed on this planet when the Miranda figure was an infant, and everyone died off but them) and a basic analogue for Frederick.  The Miranda figure, having met no human beings other than her father, is much taken with the flock of space travelers who arrive on their island planet.

But the plot . . . well, you should watch this fairly-good, fairly-not-t00-cheesy sci. fi. classic to see how much the writers owe to "The Swan of Altair."

Whoops!  I mean "Avon."  Swan of Avon.  Sorry.

Links: Wikipedia entry on the film.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tempest: A Recontextualization of The Tempest

Tempest.  Dir. Paul Mazursky.  Perf. John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Raul Julia, and  Molly Ringwald.  1982.   DVD.  Sony Pictures, 2007.
Tempest (N.B.:  Not The Tempest—just Tempest) is better known than the selection from Extras, but it's still somewhat obscure, partly because it has only recently been released on DVD.  

Kenneth S. Rothwell would classify this film as a recontextualization (rather than an adaptation) of a Shakespeare play.  It has a plot roughly like that of the play, but it does some remarkable things with it.

I'm fond of the figure of Caliban in this film (he goes by the name of Kalibanos).  He's one of the great successes in the play—he's funny and winning and sympathetic.  

He's all that in part because of the Prospero analogue (Phillip).  We get a lot of his backstory.  He's an architect who was very controlling and had something of a midlife crisis / breakdown.  He took his daughter to a nearly-uninhabited Greek island with a platonic girlfriend (the Ariel analogue) to recover.

Briefly, I'd like to present one wonderful exchange is between Kalibanos and Philip (the Prospero analogue).  Philip, jealous of the unwanted attention Kalibanos is paying Miranda, throws Kalibanos in the water.  Kalibanos shouts up out of the water:
Kalibanos:  I was boss before you show up.  Me—boss!
Philip:  You were ignorant, you superstitious bastard.  I taught you how to read.  I taught you how to count, fix the pump, read the stars . . . .
Kalibanos counters this with this line:
I show you the olive, and the fig, and the sweet water.
After some additional arguing, Philip knocks Kalibanos senseless with the oar. Then, somewhat reluctantly, he rescues him.

It's hard to tell exactly what Kalibanos says at that point. The subtitles have him say "You are a god, boss," but it sounds more like he's saying "You are God, boss."

In either case, Philip's reply is clear enough:
Philip: I'm no god. I'm a monkey, just like you.
Later, during the tempest itself, Kalibanos shouts to Philip:  "You are God, boss!"  And later still, when Philip seems unable to control the storm he seems to have summoned, Kalibanos has one more speech on the subject:
Kalibanos:  You not God.  Only God, God!
It's a delightful version of the tensions in the exchange betwwen Caliban and Prospero in I.ii, culminating in Caliban's speech:
You taught me language, and my profit on't 
Is . . . I know how to curse.  The red-plague rid you
For learning me your language!  (I.ii.363-65)
The most delightful scene is one in which Kalibanos dances with his goats.  It might be styled with this epigraph:
You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is . . . I know all the lyrics to "New York, New York!" 
Here's that delightful scene:

video

The film is one I'm glad to have seen in the theatres—on the big screen—even though I didn't like it at the time.  I'm now able to appreciate things about it that were completely mysterious to me at the time.  Yes, like the dancing goats.

Links: The film at IMDB.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Patrick Stewart as Prospero—A Fragment of The Tempest

“Episode 1.6.”  By Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.  Perf. Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen, and Patrick Stewart.  Dir. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.  Extras.  Season 1, episode 6.  BBC / HBO.  25 August 2005.  DVD.  Universal Pictures Video, 2007.

Welcome to what I've arbitrarily decided will be Tempest Week here at Bardfilm!

We'll kick it off with one that's seldom mentioned in Shakespeare and Film circles. I actually can't quite believe that I forgot this existed! If I hadn't been going through a folder looking for something else, I wouldn't have found this image.

It's from Extras, a show about . . . well, extras . . . on movie sets, and it's written by the team that gave us the BBC Office—so it's absolutely brilliant, though (or, perhaps, because) it does make the viewer exceedingly uncomfortable.

[Side Note: The American version of The Office—though my students love it and insist that I must watch every episode right now right this very second here I'll give you a thumb drive with the latest season on it—seems, for the most part, very dull. But (before I get a bunch of angry e-mails) I'll admit that I've only seen a few episodes of the first season—ones that reproduce (rather amateurishly—whoops! That's another batch of angry e-mails I'll get) specific portions of the BBC Office.]

Anyway, Patrick Stewart does a marvelous Prospero—the image above is taken from his "abjuring my art" speech in V.i.33-57—and then Patrick Stewart does a marvelous Patrick Stewart. The PS PS plays is unlike anything we'd imagine the real PS to be, and it's wonderful. Try it out.


video


Links: The official site for Extras.
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

"I'll live by Nym, and Nym shall live by me." —Henry V

Orr, Wendy.   Nim's Island.  Illus. Kerry Millard.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Wendy Orr, author of Nim's Island (on which the movie Nim's Island was based) and other works has responded to a question I asked her about Shakespearean influences on her writing.

The reason for the query was some conceivable Tempest analogues in the film (for that entry, q.v.).  

Her response is extremely interesting, and it offers (1) valuable advice for readers of all kinds of literature and (2) further evidence for a "Shakespeare is Everywhere" Weltanschauung (which I have and which I hope you're beginning to share).

The valuable advice applies to Shakespeare, of course, but it also applies to large helpings of other literature:  Read It Aloud.

She mentions studying The Merchant of Venice several times (because she changed schools frequently).  I think that's also enormously valuable.  Occasionally, my students will tell me that they've read Hamlet in high school.  Occaionally, the implication is that they don't need to (or don't intend to) read it again.  But they couldn't be more wrong.  

Shakespeare, like all great literature, can bear multiple readings.  Indeed, readers will get different things out of it at different times in their lives.  As their lives change, their response to Shakespeare also changes.

Thanks, Wendy Orr, for responding to the query!  I look forward to reading more of your work.  Perhaps Shakespeare will make another unintentional (or, even better, intentional) appearance in your future novels!

Links: Wendy Orr's Journal Blog.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2012 by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest