Monday, December 28, 2009

Woody Allen Plays the Fool. No, Really. The Fool in King Lear.

King Lear. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Perf. Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard, Norman Mailer, Kate Mailer, Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald, and Peter Sellars. 1987. DVD. Lear Media, n.d.
When William Shaksper Junior the Fifth [sic] arrives on a post-Chernobyl apocopyptic beach house filled with strangeness, mafia-esque characters, and Molly Ringwald, audience expectations inevitably run high.

Actually, I suppose that I've exaggerated the inevitably of the height of the expectations. My expectations were fairly meager. I wanted to see Woody Allen as the Fool and to see Peter Sellers clowning it up a bit. I had to wade though almost the entire film before Woody Allen showed up, and I quickly learned that William Shaksper Junior the Fifth was played by Peter Sellars, not Peter Sellers.

The film is an Avant-garde derivative of King Lear, and it's not without its merits. The general idea is that the world has fallen apart, but William Shaksper Junior the Fifth is gathering bits and pieces of King Lear in an attempt to restore it—and, presumably, though it, the art, literature, and humanity of the ages.

With that as a premise (and with Jean-Luc Godard as a director), the play is necessarily fragmented. It wasn't an enjoyable film to watch, but the idea behind it is intriguing. I got the feeling of being T. S. Eliot's Fisher King, constantly hearing the line "These fragments I have shored against my ruins" (The Waste Land 431) running through my head.

That isn't to say that I did not also think "Why then Ile fit you" (The Waste Land 432) from time to time, exasperated at the way the idea was playing itself out and plotting my revenge.

Still, Woody Allen! The Fool! Sort of!

So that you don't have to roll up your cuffs and make your way through the opening hour or so, here's the big payoff:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from Lear Media.


1 comment:

Duane Morin said...

"the world has fallen apart, but William Shaksper Junior the Fifth is gathering bits and pieces of King Lear in an attempt to restore it—and, presumably, though it, the art, literature, and humanity of the ages."

When I was in college, late 1980's, I was working at the supermarket as a cashier. One of my fellow night shift cashiers was a lady who'd been an English teacher in her previous life. I asked her opinion on Shakespeare's work. She told me, and I've never forgotten this, "If the entirety of human civilization were to disappear tomorrow, and only one piece of literature could remain as evidence that we had ever existed, that piece of literature should be King Lear." I wasn't really prepared for that answer, and it's stayed with me some 25 years.

Now I'm left wondering whether she'd just seen this movie, which I see came out in 1987.

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.
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