Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Ophélia (1962)

Ophélia
. Dir. Claude Chabrol. Perf. Alida Valli, Claude Cerval, and André Jocelyn. DVD. Gaumont, 2012. Blu-Ray. Olive Films, 2017.

Disappointed with the 2018 film entitled Ophelia (for which, q.v.), I decided to search back in time (and on my shelves) to see if the 1962 French film Ophélia might have more to offer.

It does, but it does not center its story on Ophelia's narrative.

Let me walk you through the experience of the film in case you're not able to track it down and watch it for yourself.

We start with an establishing shot of a funeral. The coffin is outside, and everyone is gathered around it. Then, after a brief shot of the corpse, we get a POV shot from inside the coffin of all the mourners. The lid blocks that shot; then we cut to the coffin being taken into a chapel of some sort. After everyone enters, the camera is left outside, and the doors close, providing a blackout.

Roll opening credits. 

After about ninety seconds, we fade back on the doors, which open. Dozens of very clearly very happy people then walk toward and past the camera. The last to exit the chapel is a solitary figure—one of the distressed mourners we saw from the perspective of the camera in the opening sequence.

In this brilliant way, we experience just how short a time it is (or seems—nay, I know not "seems") for Hamlet between the funeral and the marriage.

We then get a brief scene that I'll provide. It's worthy of something done by Henri, the Exitential Cat (for example, this one—Henri 4: L'Haunting). But I digress. Here's the clip from Ophélia I have in mind:


As we continue our stroll through this film, we learn that our protagonist's name is Yvan Lesurf and that his uncle, Adrien, has married his mother, Claudia. "A-ha!" we think. "We anticipate an interesting role-reversal trick."

After we see several instances of Yvan behaving erratically, we meet Lucie, his girlfriend. We also learn that his uncle—whom he sometimes calls "father," just as he sometimes calls his mother "aunt"—is worried for his life because of a threatening strike at the factory he now owns.

On another day, Yvan wanders into town and sees the townsfolk excited about the new film that is now showing at the local theatre: Laurence Olivier's Hamlet!

Up to this point, we've been tracking the plot of Hamlet, and we've been assuming that we're watching a straight derivative version of the play. But we haven't been! The plot has just been coincidental. And, just as we realize that, Yvan realizes it. And he figures that what worked for Hamlet will work for him. Here's how he thinks it through and presents it to his friend François:


Thus, we find ourselves in something more like the "mirror movie" category of derivative—as propounded by Kenneth Rothwell (for which, q.v.).

At this point, Yvan starts calling Lucie "Ophelia," despite her insistence that she's Lucie. She thinks he's going crazy, thinking of her as Ophelia and himself as Hamlet—and everyone else in analogous positions.

Not much later, we are presented with a very amusing movie-within-a-play-within-a-movie (of sorts) and . . . well, you'll have to track down the rest on your own! But I will say that it's both interesting and probably not exactly what you're thinking.

Well, make that definitely not exactly what you're thinking. And, okay, I'll give you the play-within-the-play scene to make up for that cliffhanger:


Links: The Film at IMDB. Note: IMDB gives the year as 1963, but both formats I have list 1962 as the year.

Click below to purchase the film, in one format or another, from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

 (DVD) 

(Blu-ray)

Note: In this case (and currently), the Blu-ray is much less expensive than the DVD. It also has subtitles in English as well as French, which might be important to some viewers.

Bonus Image! Yvan checks out what's playing at the local cineplex:


Bonus Video! But it's really just the first part of the first video above:

Friday, May 14, 2021

Ophelia (2018)

Ophelia
. Dir. Claire McCarthy. Perf. Daisy Ridley, Mia Quiney, Calum O'Rourke. 2018. DVD. 
Shout! Factory, 2019.
Based on the book by Lisa Klein (for which, q.v.), the 2018 film Ophelia has a fair bit of interest—up to a point.  And then it all falls apart.

The opening is pretty promising. We get, à la Olivier, some narration. Over a shot of Ophelia floating and then sinking in the brook, Ophelia herself tells us that her story has been told many times by many people, but now it's her chance to tell it herself:


The scene also gives us the musical theme that will run through the entire film—a setting of the poem in Hamlet's letter to Ophelia: "Doubt thou the stars are fire, / Doubt that the sun doth move, / Doubt truth to be a liar, / But never doubt I love" (II.ii.116-19).  

The next scene involves the ten-year-old (ish) Ophelia and her entrée into court. The young Queen Gertrude takes a liking to her, makes her one of her maids-in-waiting, and protects her from the jealous mocking and cruel treatment the other maids-in-waiting deal out. We get some interesting information about Gertrude's backstory, and the relationship between these two—the only two female characters in Shakespeare's play—starts to develop some interest and depth.

The scene with Laertes' departure and Polonius' challenge to Ophelia also shows some interesting family dynamics:


I like the paraphrasing and paring down of Polonius' advice to his son. Additionally, the relationship between Polonius and Ophelia when they talk about Hamlet seems more playful than controlling (though, clearly, it's both).

And the nunnery scene is also interesting, though also somewhat unbelievable. Ophelia uses the opportunity to pass along a warning to Hamlet. Please note that there will be spoilers in this clip and in the rest of this post.


So. Yes. I'm sorry for the spoilers, but they will help indicate how what might be interesting and deep and significant is abandoned in favor of the ludicrous. With one perfectly good play to develop into a derivative, this film decides it isn't enough. We get some Macbeth—Ophelia visits the three witches (conflated into one). And then we get some Romeo and Juliet. We learn that, in her younger days, the witch took the same potion Juliet took to avoid being burned at the stake. And, in this Hamlet derivative, Ophelia and Hamlet have gone off to a Friar to be secretly married.

If you keep watching from that point, the plot just gets more and more convoluted and confusing. If you make it to the duel scene, be prepared to laugh heartily. And if you get to the end, you'll see that the advertising tag line for the film, "Vengeance is Hers," is the exact opposite of the conclusion.

In short, the first third is really interesting, the second third is weird, and the final third is laughable. It's interesting to watch, but it could have been so much better.

There's another film entitled Ophélia—a French film from 1962—that I intend to try next. Let's see if that's  a better way to hear her story.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Book Note: Maurice Evans' G. I. Production of Hamlet

Evans, Maurice. Maurice Evans' G. I. Production of Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Acting Edition. Pref. Maurice Evans. Illus. Frederick Stover. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1947.

A discussion of the Macbeth that Salvador Dali illustrated (for which, q.v.) reminded me of another slightly rare Shakespeare book that I happen to have.

Essentially, this book is a performance edition of Hamlet based on a wartime production (in Hawaii, in 1944) and a subsequent performance on Broadway. Maurice Evans' introduction recounts the decisions he and the production cast made in putting the play on for members of the military. It includes revelations about costuming, editing, and conceptualizing the play for that particular audience.

For a sample, I'm providing the title page (with facing portrait of Maurice Evans), a sample of the detailed stage directions from the opening lines of the play, and an image that will give you a sense of the costumes.




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

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Shakespeare's Memory: What was the Playwright's Mind Really Like?" by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges, Jorge Luis. "Shakespeare's Memory: What was the Playwright's Mind Really Like?" New Yorker 13 April 1998: 66-69.

While we're in Borges territory, here's another interesting piece he wrote that reflects on Shakespeare. In keeping with Bardfilm's Fair Use Policy, I'm not supplying the entire short story—even though it's quite short (just four pages in The New Yorker). But there is a link to the story at the end of this post that subscribers can view—or you could request it through Inter-Library Loan. 

The story itself is somewhere between magical realism and science fiction. Our narrator has been offered the chance to have all of Shakespeare's memories. It's something that has been passed down from person to person since 1616. He accepts the offer, and he slowly starts to have Shakespeare's memories make their way into his conscious mind. It takes a while, but he sees more and more of what Shakespeare saw and feels more and more of what Shakespeare felt.

Eventually, he passes on the "gift" (I'm using air quotes—well, actually, I'm actually using actual quotes—to signify that it turns out not to be the "gift" [there I go again] we might expect it to be) to someone else.

It's an interesting take on the theme of whether it's possible to understand an individual across the centuries.

Again, I can't give you the whole thing, but here's a representative column of the story:


Links: The Article at the New Yorker (subscription required).

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"Everything and Nothing" by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges, Jorge Luis. "Everything and Nothing." Selected Poems. Ed. Alexander Coleman. New York: Viking, 1999. 86-89.

Remember back when Jorge Luis Borges was all the rage? He came into my spheres in the 1990s (roughly), and it seemed like everyone had a favorite piece.

I'm not sure I ever had a favorite at the time, but I'm fond of this poem / prose poem. As you no doubt suspect, it has to do with Shakespeare. But, without any commentary, I'm giving you the whole thing—in Spanish as well as in English—for your enjoyment and edification.



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

Monday, May 10, 2021

Stealing Shakespeare

Stealing Shakespeare
. Dir. Christian Hills. Perf. David Tennant and Raymond Scott. 2010. DVD. 
Shock Entertainment, 2010.
A fascinating documentary about the theft and prospective sale of a First Folio, Stealing Shakespeare tells the story of Raymond Scott and his haphazard, poorly-planned attempt to have a First Folio authenticated so that he could sell it.

The Folio was stolen from Durham University in 1998.  Ten years lager (2008, for those of you keeping score), Raymond Scott showed up at the Folger Shakespeare Library with a First Folio he claimed to have discovered in Cuba. He asked them to declare its authenticity so that he could then go about selling it.

It was a First Folio, all right. It was not a fake or a forgery. But, although it had been damaged since it was last seen, it was the purloined Folio from Durham.

One of the best things about the documentary is that they managed to get the story straight from Scott. I'll give you a sample in a moment, but I'll remark that Raymond Scott's story was as full of holes as a sieve. He wasn't in Cuba when he said he was, he wasn't the millionaire playboy he pretended to be, and the volume he had in his possession wasn't a previously-uncatalogued First Folio.

In the clip below, you'll get some of Scott's story, some of the FBI and the CID's discoveries, and (this is the really magnificent part) some of the fascinating First Folio forensics that were used to determine that the copy was, indeed, the one stolen from Durham in 1998. Take a look:


Scott was convicted of possessing a stolen object (though not of the actual theft) and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Different sources say different things about who the actual thief was. Some (including the documentary) say that we may never know who stole the First Folio in the first place; others claim that Scott admitted the theft even though he wasn't convicted of it.

The scholarship that went into proving that the Folio in question was from Durham is delightful. And its restoration to its rightful home is a triumph. But the story has a sad conclusion.  After serving two years of his eight-year sentence, Scott committed suicide.

This DVD is in PAL format, which makes it a little harder to view. But it tells the story remarkably well—with David Tennant at his most fully Scottish narrating—and it's well worth the effort.

For Further Fascinating Reading on this Topic:

West, Anthony James. “Proving the Identity of the Stolen Durham University First Folio.” The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 14, no. 4 (December 2013): 428-40.

———. “Correcting the First Folio’s Table of Contents.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 108, no. 2 (June 2014): 238-42.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

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

Friday, May 7, 2021

Book Note: The Shakespeare Documents

Lewis, B. Roland. The Shakespeare Documents: Facsimiles, Transliterations, Translations, and Commentary. 2 vols. Westport: Greenwood Press, [1940] 1969.

This is one of my favorite Shakespeare reference books, and I'm so pleased to have it in my collection. The Shakespeare Documents is an enormous (see the image to the right with the Shakespeare Action Figure to show the scale) two-volume set of just about every document associated with Shakespeare.

I've only had my own copy for a few months (I've been known to have my library's copy out for nearly the entire school year), but I've already found several occasions to use it:
  1. Confirming Shakespeare's baptismal date.
  2. Looking at the signatures on Shakespeare's will.
  3. Reviewing the transcription of the entry in the Stationer's Register for the plays never before published that were to be printed in the First Folio.
Indeed, since we've been talking about the First Folio, let me show you something below. Here, B. Roland Lewis shows a chart of all the plays in the First Folio together with "First Definite Mention," dates of any pre-First Folio printings, and the "Probable Source of Text."

It's a fascinating tour through the thirty-six plays that make up the First Folio. Click on the images below to enlarge them. They will still be a bit small, but imagine each of the four pages pictured below being almost 11x17 and you'll get an idea of how great this two-volume set is. 



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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Book Note: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's First Folio

The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's First Folio
. Ed. Emma Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Would you like more detailed information about an aspect of the production of the First Folio?

You've come to the right place!

Well, no, this blog isn't exactly the right place, but the book I'm mentioning is.

I'm not going to give you a full chapter as an example because the topics are so varied—as are your interests. Instead, here's the table of contents and the brief preface. They will let you know what to expect from this remarkable, scholarly anthology of relatively recent research on the First Folio.






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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Book Note: The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio

Smith, Emma. The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio. Oxford, Bodleian Library, 2015.

I've been reading a number of books on the First Folio recently. After all, it won't be long before it celebrates its four-hundred-year anniversary!

Emma Smith's has been the best by far so far. It's meticulously accurate and scholarly—but it's written in a marvelously approachable style.

Having read a lot about the First Folio over the years, I wasn't surprised by too much in the volume, but the narrative is so fascinating—and so clearly and intriguingly articulated by Smith—that I'll be re-reading this book before too long.

One particularly interesting section was the last. In it, Smith considers early readers of F and what sorts of marginalia they deigned to supply. Sample that section—and then track down the book and start it at the beginning.






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

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Kevin Kline's Shyriiwook Hamlet

Hamlet
. Dir. Kevin Kline. Perf. Kevin Kline and Diane Venora. 1990. DVD. Image Entertainment, 1990.


One of the alternate language tracks of Kevin Kline's majestical Hamlet is, not unsurprisingly, Shyriiwook, the language Chewbacca speaks:


Enjoy your May the Fourth!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

A bit more Shakespeare and Star Wars here, here, and here.
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