Saturday, March 30, 2013

Orson Welles' Film Version of Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. Orson Welles: One-Man Band. Dir. Vassili Silovic and Oja Kodar. Perf. Orson Welles. 1995. Included on Disc Two of F for Fake. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. 1973. DVD. Criterion, 2005.

One of the mysteries about Orson Welles' Merchant of Venice is why it isn't better known. But that's only one mystery among many.

I learned of the film's existence when skimming through the bonus disc on the Criterion release of F for Fake; it contains a documentary about the many incomplete projects Welles left behind during his long and (usually) illustrious career. Welles apparantly actually completed all the filming for his version of Merchant of Venice—but then some of the rolls of film were stolen, and the production could not be completed.

The documentary provides about seven minutes of the very rare footage as well as a recording of Welles delivering Shylock's most famous speech, made some time after shooting stopped on the film. I've extracted part of the film version of Merchant of Venice and the entirety of Welles' delivery of the "Hath not a Jew" speech. May those who took the footage immediately repent and turn it over to the nearest authority. The world needs the rest of this Merchant!

Links: F for Fake at IMDB. Orson Welles: One-Man Band at IMDB.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Simon Callow in Being Shakespeare

Being Shakespeare. Dir. John Wyver. Perf. Simon Callow. By Jonathan Bate. 2011. DVD. Illuminations, 2012.

In something of a biographical survey and something of a revue, Simon Callow takes us through the Seven Ages detailed by Jaques in As You Like It, providing quotations from Shakespeare's plays that fit the ages he describes. This DVD is a film version of a stage performance; it runs about an hour and a half.

The script appears to be by Jonathan Bate, the great Shakespeare scholar—but that doesn't appear to prevent some out-of-date or questionable biographical material from appearing. The story is, in this case, given greater weight than the scholarly debates about the elements of the story.

The DVD has not yet been released in the United States; readers in Europe will be pleased that they have access to something we (generally) don't.

I'm fond of Simon Callow's other roles, and I like this performance mainly for that reason. The acting and the story are conservative (and sometimes—as when he performs Juliet—a bit silly), but it's still an enjoyable experience. Here, to give you a bit of the flavor (or flavour, since this has been released in the UK but not in the US), is the opening sequence:

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Great App—and a Tempest Giveaway

Morin, Duane. Shakeshare: Sharable Shakespeare. Apple App. 28 March 2013.

Shakespeare Geek, author of the Oldest Shakespeare Blog on the Internet, has developed an amazing and amusing app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, et cetera.

The app provides an enormous array of quotes and images and allows users to e-mail, tweet, or save them.  The quotes come in two sorts: quotations from Shakespeare (see an example below) and jokes related to Shakespeare (see an example above and to the right).  It's astonishing.  The creativity that combines quotes from Shakespeare with playful Shakespeare-related jokes is very fun—but the images behind those quotes raise it to an unmatchable level.  You can even use your own images with the fun quotations, sending them to your fellow Shakespeare fans.

Moreover, Shakespeare Geek is running a competition right now until March 31.  The details are here, and you could win a copy of Julie Taymor's Tempest.

Download the app for its own sake, but enter the competition, too.  Enjoy!

Links: The App at iTunes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Note: Romeow and Drooliet

Laden, Nina. Romeow and Drooliet. New York: Chronicle Books, 2005.

Even though I've read a huge number of them, I haven't reviewed too many children's picture books on this blog.

I may need to remedy that.

This retelling of Romeo and Juliet caught my eye at my local library a few weeks ago, and I naturally had to check it out and read it.

As far as capturing the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, the book does a good job. The perennial animosity between cats and dogs forms the foundation of the story.

In other ways, the book is a bit too cutsey—but not nauseatingly so, which may mean that it strikes the appropriate balance. Click on the image below to enlarge it and to get a taste of the book.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Note: Light Thickens

Marsh, Ngaio. Light Thickens. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

An alert reader reminded me that the characters and setting of Ngaio Marsh's Death at the Dolphin (for which, q.v.) reappeared in a novel set some twenty years later and written some fifteen years later. Indeed, Light Thickens was the last Roderick Alleyn novel Marsh wrote.

In the novel, Peregrine Jay is directing a production of Macbeth at his theatre, The Dolphin. Roderick Alleyn happens to show up for its opening night—and (which is an even greater coincidence) for the night during which a murder takes place.

The novel is good in giving us the characters we enjoy—and, for this reader at least, intriguing interpretations of Shakespeare—but it is not as powerful as Death at the Dolphin by a long shot. The murder's motivations are obscure at best and contrived at worst, and that was somewhat disappointing.

Nonetheless, it's a good read—and the Macbeth they put on is described by one critic as "the best since Olivier."  Yes, the critic is fictional, but it is still a thrilling review.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

30 Rock Does Macbeth

“The Shower Principle.” By Tina Fey and Tom Ceraulo. Perf. Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Schaal, and Katrina Bowden. Dir. Stephen Lee Davis. 30 Rock. Season 6, episode 15. NBC. 29 March 2012. DVD. Universal Studios, 2012.

I happened to watch this episode last year. It took a little time for the DVD of the season to come out, for the library to buy it, and for me to remember to request it, but now it's here.

You're probably getting tired of hearing me say this, but I don't actually know this show very well.  All the same, I appreciate the humor in this episode, which plays with the idea of The Curse of The Scottish Play. I've extracted the Shakespeare references from throughout the episode and put them together in one convenient clip. Enjoy!

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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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 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) 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