Friday, January 20, 2023

The Joel Coen Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth
. Dir. Joel Coen. Perf. Denzel Washington and Francis McDormand. 2022. Apple TV+.

These are a few scattered thoughts on the Joel Coen Macbeth with Denzel Washington, together with a bemoaning of subscription streaming service Shakespeare.

Let's start with the latter. The problem I have with streaming services is how limited they are. I'm OG on DVDs—even if that makes me seem like a dinosaur. A DVD can easily be loaned to a student (or purchased by a library for wider circulation). It's easy to bring a DVD to class to show. It's easy to extract particular scenes from a DVD to embed in a presentation for educational purposes . . . or to put on a Shakespeare and Film blog of one sort or another.

Streaming services make all that very difficult—which is why I've never seen the David Tennant / Catherine Tate Much Ado About Nothing (I've hoped for years that it would be released on DVD—I'd buy it in a shot, even though it's not considered to be very good). And such limitations invite bootlegging, which hurts just about everyone.

All that is to say that I wish they would release the Joel Coen Macbeth on DVD. Purchasing it would be a privilege and a delight!

I did see a fair bit of the film (I happened to have a three-month Apple TV+ trial at the time). And I suppose my reaction tread a path others went down: I was intensely excited and then pretty disappointed.

Visually, the film is quite remarkable. Here's the official trailer to give you a flavor of that:

The film's portrayal of the Wëird Sisters (or, really, Sister) is also very interesting. Conflated into one (but sometimes presented as three), the Wëird Sister—played astonishingly well by Kathryn Hunter) goes through all sorts of contortions and transformations that ally her with the crows encircling the battlefields. I want to avoid using bootlegged clips of the film (see my point above), but a quick search of the internet will enable you to find some.

Visually, then, a great film. Use of the witches? Top notch. The rest of the film? Just flat. It seemed like a read-through of the play rather than something brought to life.

I do want to share the dagger speech with you. There's some interest in how it's portrayed, but, even here, the acting is flat. [Note: Why isn't this a bootlegged clip? Well, see my Fair Use Policy for the answer.] 

You will have noticed that point six of the Fair Use Policy is "Bardfilm does not provide the highest video quality possible." Indeed, this was filmed with a phone in front of a monitor streaming the film. But it's the best I'm going to try to do (until a DVD comes out . . . please!), and it gives you a sense of what I'm talking about: (1) It's neat that Macbeth never really noticed how much that door handle looks like a dagger. There's no hallucination here—just imagination. (2) The delivery is just not that interesting.

Links: The Film 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