Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shakespearean Tashlikh

Eckstein, Yechiel. How Firm a Foundation: A Gift of Jewish Wisdom for Christians and Jews. Brewster: Paraclete, 1997.
Rosh Hashanah began at sunset yesterday. It's the beginning of the Jewish Year; the High Holy Days begin on Rosh Hashanah.

One particularly significant and moving ceremony practiced during Rosh Hashanah is Tashlikh. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein articulates it well:
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we perform theTashlikh ceremony in which we throw bread crumbs or stones into a running body of water such as a river or spring, and symbolically cast off our sins into the water and begin life anew. . . . Today . . . Tashlikh is completely accepted and widely viewed as symbolic of the freedom from sin we can enjoy when we repent and trust in God's miracle of forgiveness. In the words of the prophet recited in the Tashlikh liturgy, "Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). (104)
I mentioned this to a Shakespeare class on Rosh Hashanah some three years ago, not expecting too much to come of it besides expansion of knowledge. But a student took the idea to heart, filled his pockets until they bulged with stones, found a creek here on campus, and cast the stones into it. He walked away with his pockets and his soul lighter than they had been.

What has this to do with Shakespeare? Well, I'd like to bring Shakespeare and Tashlikh together in a Shakespearean Tashlikh ceremony in which I invite you all—whatever you faith—to participate. 

Gather some rocks—literal or figurative or some combination of the two will do. [My own are in the image above—a photograph of the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee taken during our trip to Israel this summer. Seemed appropriate.] Then, with your imagination or a marker, write the name of a character from Shakespeare on each. As I did so, I considered the sins of each—and I considered how guilty I am of the same sin. I am guilty of the jealousy of Othello in looking at others' more successful blogs. And I'm guilty of the sin of Iago in inciting myself to that jealousy. You get the idea. I don't want to detail the other sins of which I am guilty in such a public setting!

Now—throw those rocks into a body of water. Repent of the sins they represent, and turn from them.  Trust that those sins have been forgiven.

And, with your pockets empty of characters from Shakespeare, walk away with a light heart and a cleansed conscience.

L'shanah tovah tikatevu v'taychataymu! 

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!
Links: Tashlikh at Wikipedia. Rosh Hashanah at Judaism 101.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Skeptical . . . but Willing

Reed, John, ed. All the World's a Grave. New York: Penguin, 2008.
I received a e-mail promoting this book, and I'm farily skeptical. Then again, there are some big names offering commentary on it. Ian McKellan's blurb, though it tends to damn with faint praise (or to praise with faint damns), does call it "original":
I couldn’t quite believe All the World’s A Grave: such an original idea. The verbal parallels it plays with are intriguing and certainly have merit in pointing out that Shakespeare did repeat situations and ideas throughout his plays.

                            --Ian McKellan
All the same, I'm willing to give it a try. I'll let you know what I think.
Links: The book's website.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Not-So-Silent Hamlet

Hamlet: The Drama of Vengeance [Hamlet: Ein Rachedrama]. Dir. Svend Gade. Perf. Asta Neilsen. 1920. Videocassette. Sunland Video, n.d.
Durante, Jimmmy. "Who will be with you when I'm so far away?" The Great Schnozzle. Asv Living Era, 1998.

I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist posting this. In inserting English title cards, I'm finding it necessary to change the sound track. This is an experiment that puts a completly-inappropriate soundtrack onto a clip from the film. It actually works pretty well!

Clip Removed for being too, too silly. 

Thank you. 

—Bardfilm's Management.

Thanks, Jimmy Durante, for the lovely song. And goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.
Links: The Film at IMDB. N.B.: IMDB lists the date as 1921, but all the scholarly sources I checked—Rothwell, Sammons, et cetera—list 1920 as the date.

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"The rest . . . is . . . Silen[t Hamlet]."

Hamlet: The Drama of Vengeance [Hamlet: Ein Rachedrama]. Dir. Svend Gade. Perf. Asta Neilsen. 1920. Videocassette. Sunland Video, n.d.
A forthcoming post will provide much more about this film—I'm adding English translations of the German title cards to a section of this film, and it's a time-consuming process . . . and it's not that I have a lot of time to consume right now, either!

This silent, German film version of Hamlet starts at the birth of the young prince. Actually, to be more accurate, it starts at the birth of the young princess! In this production, Hamlet is not only played by a woman, he is a woman. For reasons of state, the announcement of Hamlet's birth declares her to be a boy: the male heir to the throne.

Naturally, I'll have more to say later. Consider this a teaser for future posts.
Links: The Film at IMDB. N.B.: IMDB lists the date as 1921, but all the scholarly sources I checked—Rothwell, Sammons, et cetera—list 1920 as the date.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Strange Derivative of Hamlet

Strange Illusion. Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer. Perf. Jimmy Lydon, Paul Cartwright, Warren William, Sally Eilers, Regis Toomey, and Charles Arnt. 1945. Alpha Video, 2004.
While looking over the extensive range of materials related to Hamlet I've collected over the years, I came across this film. It has been a while since I watched this odd, film noir-esque derivative of Hamlet, and I'd forgotten just how odd it is. Here's the beginning—it's what we see immediately after the opening credits:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Patrick Stewart's Prospero

“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.
Some time ago, I mentioned the brief glimpse Extras gave us into Patrick Stewart as Prospero. Through the offices of my local library, I tracked down a copy of the show and am pleased to present a brief moment into this imagined production of The Tempest.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shakespeare and Star Trek

“Ménage à Troi.” By Fred Bronson and Susan Sackett. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Michael Dorn. Dir. Robert Legato. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 3, episode 24. Syndicated television. 10 June 1990. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
Image Caption: 
Worf is uncertain about Shakespearean love poetry.

I was attempting to clean out a folder of images, and I came across these. At some point, we may have to have "Shakespeare and Star Trek week" at Bardfilm (there's enough material, believe it or not, for a large number of posts), but that will have to wait. In the meantime, I have these screenshots of Jean-Luc Picard quoting Shakespeare sonnets to establish his love for Deanna Troi's mother.

A slight misquotation. Sonnet 147 begins with these lines: "My love is as a fever, longing still / For that which longer nurseth the disease."

Back on track, Picard continues the line in perfect iambic pentameter.

Switching to Sonnet 141, Picard quotes with greater accuracy.

Picard counts backward to see if he has quoted the lines with precision. He's checking for pentameter while ignoring iambs at this point.

Links: The Episode at Wikipedia.  Sonnets at The Works of the Bard.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Strong Bad & Shakespeare

Chapman, Mike, and Craig Zobel. “Love Poems.” Homestar Runner. 15 September 2008. 22 September 2008 {http:/ www.homestarrunner.com /sbemail195.html}.
[Putting the subjects of these posts into the MLA form is sometimes quite a challenge.  The URL above ought to have angled brackets (<>) around it, but the program keeps thinking that I'm trying to indicate some sort of html code.  Ah, well.  It's the best I can do on a web site.]

It's odd; it's wild; it's wonderful; and it relates to Shakespeare. If you haven't encountered the marvel of Homestar Runner and Strong Bad, allow me to introduce you.

One of the most popular sections of the Homestar Runner site is the Strong Bad e-mail section. Strong Bad receives e-mail messages from his fans (or detractors); in this case, an e-mail signed "Just Another Hopeless Romantic" asks for his advice in composing love poems. The answer contains some ever-so-tangential Shakespeareana.

video

p.s. I considered this alternate MLA citation for the e-mail because it avoids angled brackets and it fits into the world of the website:
Bad, Strong. “Love Poems.” E-mail to Just Another Hopeless Romantic. 12 September 2008.
p.p.s. Here's a .jpg of how the citations should really look (click on the image for a close-up):


Links: The Entire E-mail. The Homestar Runner site. The Strong Bad e-mail section.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Odd, Layered Closing of Prospero's Books

Prospero's Books. Dir. Peter Greenaway. Perf. Sir John Guelgud, Michael Clark, Isabelle Pasco, and Orpheo. 1991. Videocassette. Media / Video Treasures, 1996.
My last post covered the opening of Prospero's Books.

The pun was intended.

The closing (yes, pun intended again—I'm incorrigible) of Prospero's Books is also fascinating. The book theme continues as we come upon the twenty-third book:  A book of thirty-five plays.  Listen to the description (and then watch the rest of the ending):

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Links: The film at IMDB.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Odd, Layered Opening of Prospero's Books

Prospero's Books. Dir. Peter Greenaway. Perf. Sir John Guelgud, Michael Clark, Isabelle Pasco, and Orpheo. 1991. Videocassette. Media / Video Treasures, 1996.
Thanks to the good people of my local libary, I was able to get a copy of Prospero's Books.

Kudos to them (I really don't like that phrase—don't know why I used it) and to the delightful principle of inter-library loan.

Marvelous. Now, on to the blog post proper.

The opening screen of Prospero's Books reads, in part, as follows:

One evening, Prospero imagines
creating a storm powerfrul enough to
bring his old enemies to his island.
He begins to write a play
about this tempest,
speaking aloud the lines
of each of his characters.
It is the story of Prospero's past,
and his revenge . . .

After that, we get this opening, which describes the first in a series of "books" that surround the imagined creation of the play about the tempest. The film is a bit odd—but it's also really rich. And Sir John Guelgud's voice, even with so simple a word as "Boatswain," is remarkable beyond all telling of it.

video

Links: The film at IMDB.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Production Begins: A Midwinter's Tale Presents Hamlet

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.
We return to Branagh’s A Midwinter’s Tale (for which q.v. and q.v.) to see how they begin the production. The scene below takes place near the end of the film. By this time, the odd group of actors we saw in the audition have struggled with the play and with each other (and some other things have happened, but you don't want any spoilers). The designer has made some cardboard audience members—so that the house won't look bare on opening night. And what an opening it is! Take a look:

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

When You Don't Agree with the Decisions of the Director

The Goodbye Girl. By Neil Simon. Dir. Herbert Ross. Perf. Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings, and Paul Benedict. 1977. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2000.
Sometimes, when a director goes particularly overboard with an interpretative decision, I wonder what the actor who has to play out that decision thinks.

I wonder if the actor's thought process is anything like this:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Is this the Promised End?" . . . or just that clip of Patrick Stewart you promised?

King of Texas. Dir. Uli Edel. Perf. Patrick Stewart and Marcia Gay Harden. 2002. DVD. Turner Home Entertainment, 2002.
I did say I would try to find a clip from King of Texas, the Lear derivative with Patrick Stewart. With the help of some very able librarians, I tracked down a copy. In the scene below, Lear divides the ranch.

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Stop the [Reefer] Madness!

Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical. Dir. Andy Fickman. Perf. Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, and Alan Cumming. 2005. DVD. Showtime, 2005.
The 1936 film Reefer Madness (a.k.a. Tell Your Children, directed by Louis J. Gasnier, Mill Creek Entertainment, 2007) became a cult classic in the 1970s. I suppose the term "cautionary tale" fits this film exactly. Smoking Marijuana and reading Romeo and Juliet prove dangerous—nay, fatal—in this documentary-style exposé on drug and Shakespeare use. [Note: I approve of the latter (viz. Shakespeare use) while despising the former (viz. drug use).]

The world had to wait until 2005 for the movie version of the musical version of Reefer Madness. The film is uneven, but this song, sung by the naïve 1930s-style teenagers is brilliant.

video

Links: Reefer Madness at IMDB. Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical at IMDB.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

"If We Shadows have Offended . . ." Get Over It!

Get Over It. Dir. Tommy O’Haver. Perf. Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, Melissa Sagemiller, and Sisqó. 2001. DVD. Miramax, 2001.
Get Over It is a Midsummer Night's Dream-related film from 2001. The opening sequence is one of the best things about it. Midsummer Night's Dream begins with people who are not in love (or who are not in love with the right people or in the right way or for the right reasons or . . . well, you get it); it ends with everyone happily in love. I wonder if the clip below shows what people in the audience who are not in love (or who are not in love with the right people or in the right way or for the right reasons yadda yadda yadda) feel at play's end. Perhaps Puck's final speech is meant to eliminate or dispell reactions like this:

video


Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Act I, Scene ii of Richard III: One of the Hardest Scenes (to Play Convincingly) in Shakepeare

The Street King [a.k.a. King Rikki]. Dir. James Gavin Bedford. Perf. Jon Seda and Mario López. 2002. DVD. Universal Studios, 2003.
The Street King has a wonderful introduction. Its version of Richard III's I.ii isn't on the same level. It's over-the-top, filled with shouting, and not terribly convincing.

Perhaps it's meant to be.

The scene is hard to play convincingly. Richard has, in Shakespeare, killed the husband and the father of the women to whom he's professing love. Though she starts off by spitting at him, she ends up swayed by his protestations.

It takes a long time to get there, but Rikki provides a version of this speech from Richard III:
Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
video

Rikki's version? "Not bad for a first date."
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Friday, September 12, 2008

King Richard of the Street

The Street King [a.k.a. King Rikki]. Dir. James Gavin Bedford. Perf. Jon Seda and Mario López. 2002. DVD. Universal Studios, 2003.
Although its production values are somewhere in the Saturday-Afternoon-Modern-Detective-Movie-on-KPLR-TV Range, The Street King has quite a lot of interest. It's a resetting of Richard III among California gangs. And it works.

Jon Seda is the reason it works. He plays Rikki, a young thug—the only one without a criminal record—who is trying to make it to the big time. Seda plays Rikki as incredibly open and honest and likable—even though he's about to do horrible things. It's not a bad way to understand Richard: he, too, is somehow immensely personable and magnetic.  I mean, take a look at the image above.  He must be a really nice guy, right?

I've streamlined the clip below to concentrate on that openness of the Jon Seda Rikki. As a result, the plot isn't entirely clear. But I don't think it needs to be. What I'd like you to notice is the way he's explaining everything to us. He's completely at ease with us; he's completely friendly with us—up to a point. At that point, he honestly tells us that he doesn't know us that well, so he needs to keep one or two secrets from us.

video

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Looking for Whom? Richard or Shakespeare? Or Al Pacino?

Looking for Richard. Dir. Al Pacino. Perf. Al Pacino, Penelope Allen, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Conway. 1996. Videocassette. Fox Video, 1997.
It's probably looking for all three.

Al Pacino's Looking for Richard falls either into Rothwell's "Revues" category or into his "Documentaries" category of his "Seven Kinds of Shakespearean Derivatives" analysis (though, with this film, there's considerable overlap into other categories as well). As Al Pacino thinks about how to make a film of Richard III, he interviews people on the street (very casually), scholars, actors, and, perhaps primarily, himself as he tries to make sense of it.

The opening of the clip below exhibits how I often feel when reading or teaching Shakespeare. Take a look—you may have felt this way, too:

video

Links: A Site with Lesson Plans.

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[Note: The film is currently only available as part of a box set of Pacino films.]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How to "Smile, and murther whiles [you] smile."

Richard III. Dir. Richard Loncraine. Perf. Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey, Jr., and Maggie Smith. 1995. DVD. United Artists Pictures, 1995.
Ah, Sir Ian. What a lovely way to transition from Lear Week at Bardfilm (which lasted almost a month, it seems) into something new.

This Richard III (and this Richard III—not underlined, and therefore indicating the character rather than the play) is marvelous. I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have when I first saw it—as it should be seen: on the big screen in a smallish theatre with an enthusiastic crowd.

This speech is also marvelous. It demonstrates Richard's ability to smile while plotting murder.

And when Richard spots us in the mirror, overhearing his deepest secrets, it's thrilling (as in OED definition 1.b of "thrilling, ppl. a.": " Piercing or penetrating, as cold; causing shivering or shuddering." Magnificent. Take a gander:

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Links: The film at IMDB.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Granddaddy of Modern Lear Derivatives

Ran. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. Perf. Tatsuya Nakadai and Akira Terao. 1985. DVD. Criterion, 1985.
Prospero's Books is to The Tempest as Ran is to King Lear. They both are such rich, magnificent, bizarre, moving, and off-putting films as to make future filmmakers think twice about approaching the same subject matter.

Ran is Kurosawa's filmmaking apogee. And the clip below is the apex of the apogee. (It's really the culmination of the pinnacle of the summit of the zenith of the apex of the apaogee, but let's not quibble).  In this clip, the Lear analogue has been attacked by his children and has lost the battle. Alone in the burning castle, he loses his sanity. Unable to find a sword with which to commit Seppuku, Ichimonji (Lear) simply walks out. The two victorious armies are so awed by his madness or his suffering or the remnants of his authority that they simply divide and let him pass.

The scene is one of the most famous in this most famous (it is one of only three Shakespeare-related films mentioned in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) of Lear derivatives. The fire burning down the castle is also destroying the hugely-expensive set—Kurosawa and his actors get one take to do this perfectly.  And they do.

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Links: The Wikipedia entry on the film.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Where King Lear Began, Filmwise

King Lear. Silent Shakespeare. Dir. Gerolamo Lo Savio. Perf. Ermete Novelli and Francesca Bertini. 1911. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.
Here's a small segment from a fourteen-minute silent version of King Lear from 1911. Even with fourteen minutes at his disposal, Lo Savio needs to depend on extensive, lengthy title cards to get the plot across. Though you have to admit that the opening title card does a good job of summarizing the opening scene.

I tried forgetting everything I knew about the play before watching the film, just to see if it still made sense. But I just wasn't able to separate what I know of the plot of the play from the experience of watching the film.

But the film is quite enjoyable! I love the colorization, especially considering that they had to paint each frame of the entire film by hand to get that effect. A stunning amount of work is therefore embodied in the short clip below.

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

Thank you for your understanding.

—The Management


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Nahum Tate: Poet Laureate, Hymnist, and Lear-Expurgator

The | History | of | King | Lear. | Acted at the | Duke's Theatre. | Reviv'd with Alterations. | By N. Tate. | London, | Printed for E. Flesher, and are to be sold by R. Bent- | ley, and M. Magnes in Fussel-street near Covent-Garden, 1681.

From 1681-1838, the version of King Lear most people would have seen was Nahum Tate’s. The title page of the printed version of Tate’s production of the play leaves it nicely ambiguous whether the entire thing is by Tate or if the “by” refers only to the alterations. Tate’s alterations are so extensive as to make Shakespeare’s authorship (or collaboration?) minimal. The end demonstrates this well. In Nahum Tate’s version, everyone lives happily ever after. Cordelia even marries Edgar at the end of Tate’s play!

Alistair Cooke mentions a bit of the stage history in his introduction to Welles’ Lear (for which q.v.). When he mentions the eighteenth century’s dismissal of the play as “disorderly—barbaric,” I imagine that he’s thinking of the reasons Tate had for altering the play. To my way of thinking, Tate’s version seems more disorderly and barbaric than Shakespeare’s.

Tate was also the poet laureate of England and wrote a poetic translation of the Psalms, the most famous of which ended up in the hymn “As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams” set to a tune by Hugh Wilson. [Note: Adjust your volume before clicking on that link—a MIDI file accompanies it, and it can be rather loud and unexpected if you don’t turn it down and / or expect it.] 

The hymn is an adaptation of Psalm 42. It’s a hopeful hymn—and rightly so. But I wonder if a little time with Ecclesiastes—particularly Ecclesiastes 7:3-4—might have persuaded Tate to stick with Shakespeare’s ending:
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Links: Hymn. Psalm.
Click below to link to a book that you can't buy from amazon.com
(but which is by Nahum Tate
and which has an interesting title).


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lear-Related Youth Group Activity

King Lear. Dir. Michael Elliott. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely, John Hurt, Diana Rigg, and Leo McKern. 1983. DVD. Kultur Video, 2000.
Although it may not originally have come from Lear, a youth-group activity I witnessed many years ago seems to have an extraordinary number of parallels with Edgar's journey with his father in IV.vii.

Here's the activity. You choose someone to stand on a plank on the ground. Then two strong guys lift the plank and set it on a table. You ask the person to jump off the plank. The person jumps. No trouble.

Then you put the same person on the plank—blindfolded this time. Then two strong guys lift the plank and set it back down on the ground or on a couple of cinder blocks. The person is very close to the ground, but he or she thinks he or she is a table's distance from the ground. You ask the person to jump off the plank. After some hesitation and soul-searching and shouts of encouragement from the group, the person jumps and is surprised when they find the ground much closer than they thought it was. Everyone laughs and a lesson is learned.

I don't exactly remember what lesson, but it must have been the same as or similar to the lesson Gloucester learns in IV.vii of King Lear. Here's a version of the scene (from the Olivier version):


Links: The film at IMDB.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sponsor Chooses the Best Possible Placement for its Advertisment

King Lear. Dir. Peter Brook. Perf. Orson Welles, Natasha Parry, Margaret Phillips, Beatrice Straight, and Alan Badel. 1953. DVD. Passport, 2006.
Really, I just have three things to note about the Welles' King Lear before moving on to other matters.

One comment is flippant.  

One comment is scholarly.

And one comment is coincidental.  I leave it up to you to determine which is which.
  • Even though the subplot is cut in this production, the network logo seems significant.  CBS's eye-within-the-eye reminds us (perhaps too subtly) of Gloucester's absence from the production.
  • At the end, Alistair Cooke brought Peter Brook up to say a few words.  He said something like, "Thanks to your director here, Andrew McCullough," leading me to believe that McCullough was the director of the Omnibus program while Brook directed this specific production of King Lear.
  • What is the ideal sponsor for a Shakespearean tragedy?  What do you need right at the close of the play?  Well, take a look at this fabulous product placement:
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Links: The Film at IMDB.
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finally—A Bit o' th' Play!

King Lear. Dir. Peter Brook. Perf. Orson Welles, Natasha Parry, Margaret Phillips, Beatrice Straight, and Alan Badel. 1953. DVD. Passport, 2006.
I felt a certain obligation to provide part of Welles' King Lear after giving you the short introduction, the Greyhound commercial, and the long introduction. It is a pretty straightforward production. The resonant voice of Welles is the most striking feature of it. Oh, and the hat. Welles and his hats. In his 1948 Macbeth, he looks like The Klingon Statue of Liberty. Five years later, not much hat progress has been made.  Now it seems to be a combination of Béla Lugosi, Saint Nick, and a Standard Grounded Outlet Plug.

But the voice . . . it's worth it for the voice.

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Links: The Film at IMDB. Note: IMDB lists Andrew McCullough as the director, but the introduction mentions Peter Brook. I'll need to investigate this further, but I don't want to mislead anyone in the meantime.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Alistair Cooke's Introduction to Orson Welles' King Lear

King Lear. Dir. Peter Brook. Perf. Orson Welles, Natasha Parry, Margaret Phillips, Beatrice Straight, and Alan Badel. 1953. DVD. Passport, 2006.
Yes, Lear Week at Bardfilm was supposed to end several days ago now, but c'mon! I haven't even gotten to Ran yet!

And the material surrounding the Orson Welles King Lear has been so interesting that I haven't even gotten to the film part yet! In the segment below, a very young Alistair Cooke tells us why different ages have appreciated or failed to appreciate this play:

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I'm particularly struck by Cooke's closing lines:
It is the play of an author who, in the prime of life, despaired not only of men and women but of the God who made them. But this is not the petulance of a small-town atheist. It is the despair of one of the most intuitive human beings who ever lived and of the most greatly gifted of our poets.

So, we give you King Lear in the hope that you may learn more from Shakespeare's pessimism than from the optimism of lesser men.
That's not exactly why I read and teach King Lear, though we do learn from the pessimism of the characters in the play and even of the play itself.

Lear isn't a romp through the rhododendrons. And it does contain some of the darkest of all possible portraits of human nature. But I don't think that the play is entirely nihilistic, even if some of its characters are. Gloucester's contention that "the gods . . . kill us for their sport" (IV.i.38-39) is undone by Edgar's speeches at the cliff's base. And redemption can be found in the suffering of Lear—and even of Cordelia.

Links: The Film at IMDB. Note: IMDB lists Andrew McCullough as the director, but the introduction mentions Peter Brook. I'll need to investigate this further, but I don't want to mislead anyone in the meantime.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WDWT: What Did Welles Think?

King Lear. Dir. Peter Brook. Perf. Orson Welles, Natasha Parry, Margaret Phillips, Beatrice Straight, and Alan Badel. 1953. DVD. Passport, 2006.
In the few minutes I had to spare before Faculty Meeting, I started Orson Welles' King Lear, a 1953 contribution to the television show Omnibus. I didn't have time to get too far into it—all I got to see was the opening commercials—but they were fascinating! I really wonder what Welles thought at that point in his career by being sponsored so heavily by Greyhound Bus Lines, of all people.

Perhaps he thought that Poor Tom (a.k.a. Edgar) prophesied about them in this speech from III.vi:
Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt, you curs!
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
Mastiff, Greyhound™, mongrel grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail,
Tom will make them weep and wail:
For, with throwing thus my head,
Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.
Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and
fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
Whether he did or not, the introduction is interesting, and I thought we could all take a look at it. And we can all try to imagine Orson Welles as the driver of a Greyhound Bus as we do so.

video


Links: The Film at IMDB.  Note:  IMDB lists Andrew McCullough as the director, but the introduction mentions Peter Brook. I'll need to investigate this further, but I don't want to mislead anyone in the meantime.

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

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