thehefner: (Hamlet: Monologue)
That other favorite film not even available on eBay is the 1971 King Lear, directed by Peter Brook and starring Paul Scofield.

Lear is my favorite Shakespeare play, and as anybody who has a deep abiding love for a particular Shakespeare play knows, I'm incredibly picky about which version I think is the best. The Olivier version is good but a bit too over-the-top and formal. The Ian Holm version pain stinks. The Ian McKellen version is pretty excellent, except for the fact that they apparently cast Dr. Byron Orpheus as Kent.

But by and large, I think everyone can agree that the greatest Lear in film is Kurosawa's Ran, a film that perfectly captures the scope, spirit, and heartrending power of the story while bittersweetly having not a shred of actual Shakespeare writing.

But the Brook/Scofield King Lear... this is side by side with Kurosawa's Ran for the greatest Lear I've ever seen. Even if it's only about 1/3rd of the actual text, all told. I should hate any version that slashes Shakespeare's beautiful text to its barest minimum. and in most cases that would be a disaster.

But Peter Brook is brilliant, and it takes a play so often done with overblown bombast and reduces it to a harrowing whisper. Scofield's Lear barely raises his voice, but he never needs to. I've never heard the "serpent's tooth" speech delivered with such quiet, ferociously chilling venom.

I saw this one more like fifteen years ago, on an old-ass VHS from my video store. I should have thought to buy it from them when they were phasing out tapes. It never occurred to me that they'd never make the DVD available for all regions, and I don't wanna shell out for a region-free player just to watch one film. Even if it is one of my favorite movies of all time. Even if it is the greatest version I've ever seen of my favorite play of all time. No, that'd just be silly.

In the meantime, I'll have to make do with this version with Spanish subtitles, which I hope and pray won't detract too much from the horrific minimalism of this film:

Oh yeah. Definitely making a date night with this and the Henchgirl sometime soon. Because I'm an idiot like that.
thehefner: (Hamlet: Damn I'm Interesting)
Hmph. Looks like I missed my chance to see RICHARD II at the Shakespeare Theatre. The last show is sold out. Did anyone see it? [ profile] cisic, perhaps? [ profile] emma_elicit? [ profile] tompurdue? Anyone?

Perhaps it's just as well that I missed it. I wanted to take Henchgirl, to introduce her to one of my very favorite Shakespeare plays (and one of my dream roles to perform... also my most intimidating). But then, I remember when I took Bloo to see the original Chicago production of Stacy Keach's KING LEAR, which was perhaps the second worst LEAR I've ever seen. It still kills me that that was Bloo's introduction to my very favorite play. Kills me.

Now, you may be wondering, "Gee, Heffie, what was the absolute worst KING LEAR you've ever seen?" That would be the Shakespeare Theatre production directed by Michael Kahn. Y'know, the same company and director who directed the RICHARD II that I'm missing. So yeah, I wouldn't want for Henchgirl's introduction to RICHARD II being a bad one.

Because good lord does RICHARD II have the potential to be a horrible production in the wrong hands. It's a play with virtually zero action of any sort happening, largely devoted to wangst and wallowing self-pity. And yet, by some miracle of Shakespeare's poetry and performers like Derek "Man-God" Jacobi, it can be one of the most moving plays I've ever seen.

The heart of this is how, for reasons I still don't entirely understand, Richard goes from being a self-absorbed, nasty little twit to somehow gaining more and more humanity the more power he loses. But some reviews I've read of Kaaaaaaaaahn's RICHARD II say that this production does away with that.

DC Theatre Scene--and the reviewer there said he never say anything in the text to support that Richard regains his humanity--says they just keep Richard a pompous self-absorbed ass up to the moment of his (spoiler alert!) murder. They reviewer said, "It's a bold choice, and it works." I'm skeptically curious. That choice seems to undercut the very thing which gives RICHARD II it's unlikely poignancy and power.

And I'm not saying it couldn't work, and I haven't seen a Michael Kaaaaaaaaaaahn production in many years, but from what I recall of the man's work, he's not the one to pull it off.

In the end, I'm sad only for my own eduction and experience that I'm missing RICHARD II. It's so rarely produced that I feel like I can only learn from any production, especially a bad one, which I have yet to see. But in the end, I'd rather introduce Henchgirl to it via either Derek Jacobi...

(cue to 7:50 onward)

.. or Mark Rylance:

(Dreamy sigh)

I saw that production live, at the Globe, with a class in London. I was the only one in the class who actually went and saw it a second time, I loved it so much. Apparently they filmed the whole thing and aired it on the BBC? DAMN IT, I WANTS IT ON THE DVDS!

Can anyone get it for me? And if so, can you also get the CRIME AND PUNISHMENT movie with John Simm and Ian McDiarmid? And the Paul Scofield KING LEAR? Damn it, should I just spring for a region-free DVD player and be done with it?
thehefner: (Hamlet: Damn I'm Interesting)

KILL SHAKESPEARE is a new comic series from IDW by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery and Andy Belanger that’s kind of like a cross between FABLES and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. And Shakespeare. In which Hamlet, Romeo, Juliet, Othello and Falstaff have to team up to beat Richard III, Iago and Lady Macbeth.


Y'know, I'd be wayyyy more behind this if the choices weren't so frickin' obvious. And I love Hamlet, I do, but he'll be terrible on a team. The only character who really intrigues me is Falstaff. I just get the distinct impression this will be written by people with only a casual knowledge of Shakespeare, or that it'll just do like FABLES and make the characters unrecognizable while trying to seem clever (Cinderella's now a lethal spy. Sure, why not?).

If I had my way, I'd have Edgar and Edmund on the respective good/evil sides, Benedick as the dashingly snarky Han Solo type (with Beatrice as his Leia), Sir Toby and Sir Andrew as the drunken "Blue Beetle and Booster Gold" pair always cooking of crazy doomed schemes, Tullus Aulfidius as the badass tactician/warrior, Rosalind and Viola as the spies/masters of disguise, and Aaron the Moor as the resident "Scorpius/Lex Luthor/Benjamin Linus" character.

What about you, Shakespeare fans? If you could choose your own take on this premise, which characters would you include?


Feb. 6th, 2009 07:31 am
thehefner: (Titus Andronicus: I made you eat!)
So Al Pacino will be doing a film of KING LEAR. This could either go really well or really, really badly. It's by the guy who did the MERCHANT OF VENICE film, was that any good?

Me, I still desperately need Peter Brook's 1971 KING LEAR on DVD. It's available in the UK, which is a single-handed argument for me getting a region-free player. It's one of the greatest Shakespeare movies ever made, and Paul Scofield is the greatest Lear I've ever seen. He underplays it more than any other Lear (who's usually played all fire and brimstone and trilling "r"s*), and the result is...

... well, here, Shakespeare fans, you owe this to yourselves. Just look at him. Look at this motherfuckin' King Lear.

I seriously don't think there's been a more powerful version of this curse:

Nor a more horrifying version of the eye-gouging (did the cameo by Patrick Magee, actor of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and MARAT/SADE!):

Nor a more badass (and insanely short!) duel between Edgar and Edmund. With fucking axes.

You may have noticed that this is a pretty truncated version of LEAR. Purists might be appalled to find beautiful soliloquies and speeches reduced to one or two lines, but somehow, it absolutely works in the sparse, stark, and bleak (Bergmanesque?) context of Brook's vision.

I originally was going to write a whole LJ post about why I love KING LEAR above all other Shakespeare plays, why I feel it's sorely underappreciated, and all the "troublesome" (i.e.: "often if not outright shitty") versions I've seen of it since, even with greats like Olivier, Ian Holm, and Stacy Keach. But I figured most of y'all would just gloss over that, and would have just preferred to show you guys these clips.

There are more on YouTube, including the awesome ten-minute long scene where Lear realizes his daughters' betrayal, all well worth watching until they finally put it out on DVD.

Okay, seriously, off to NYCC now.

*God, Larry Olivier, I love and defend you, but your Lear hurt my soul. "Oh RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREASON NOT THE NEEEEEEEED!!!
thehefner: (Titus: Goths Got Your Tongue?)
Thanks to [ profile] scarydavedc for finding this:

PULP FICTION, Shakespeare-style. A collaborative work in progress.

Vincent: And know'st thou what the French name cottage pie?
Julius: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?
Vincent: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.
Julius: What say they then, pray?
Vincent: Hachis Parmentier.
Julius: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?
Vincent: Cream is but cream, only they say la crème.
Julius: What do they name black pudding?
Vincent: I know not;
I visited no inn where't could be bought.

Dave's right, someone needs to do this at Fringe. Surely there must be a Rude bold enough. Just imagine the poster.

I think it's still incomplete, though. Maybe not. I don't think anybody's done Walken's monologue with the watch., Found it! C'mon, folks, I know some of you out there who are already thinking about their own takes (and perhaps improvements over what's already been written)...
thehefner: (Hamlet: Monologue)
... till he be eas'd with being nothing."

It's amazing what one can find on YouTube these days.

RICHARD II, starring Derek Jacobi with John Gielgud as John of Gaunt. One of the two or three genuinely brilliant productions from the BBC's complete Shakespeare series.

EDIT: Blast, I thought they posted the whole thing on there. Here, instead of the first scene, have the last one, to contrast with the Rylance one below.

It's available on DVD, so one way or another, this is an absolute must-see. Jacobi's performance moves me to tears, especially with his "NO!!!" But my first introduction to this little-seen play came when I saw Mark Rylance's production at the Globe in London.

And why oh why oh why did I not know the BBC filmed the Globe production?!

It's only on YouTube in excerpts. Where the hell can I get a full recording?! It's not often you can have a filmed version of one of the greatest Shakespearean theatrical experiences of your life.

God, RICHARD II. I cannot imagine a Shakespeare play that could possibly be more punishing to read yet rewarding to see live (and done well). It's a whole play entirely devoid of action and filled with long, long speeches of self-pity. But what self-pity. In the hands of Jacobi and Rylance, self-pity becomes heartwrenching, saintly, even angelic, which is all the more remarkable coming from a character who started off the play as a petulant jerkass, not unlike my version of King John. Yet the more power he loses, he more dignity and grace he gains.

Man, I need to get full versions of both productions. Like, yesterday.

EDIT AGAIN: There was a TV production in 1970 of Ian McKellen as Richard?! Egad, it must be mine!
thehefner: (Applause)
Reading this interesting but flawed list of unusual Shakespeare adaptations, I was reminded that there was a time when I considered L.A. STORY to not just be my favorite Steve Martin film, but also my favorite appropriate date movie.*

And really, as far as films go, it's far from perfect. The biggest flaw is the one that really should sink the film entirely, namely that the leads have absolutely zero chemistry whatsoever. I forget who declared the film law that actors who are dating in real life have terrible chemistry on screen, but L.A. STORY is a prime example with Steve Martin and then-wife Victoria Tennant (and what the hell else has she done since?). Let's face it, Sarah Jessica Parker's SanDeE* is the far more compelling love interest, and that's saying something.

Plus, it has Sarah Jessica Parker.

Plus plus, it's terribly dated, but what do you expect when your story lovingly skewers the superficial shallowness of Los Angeles (which, ironically, is always relevant and timely)?

Plus plus plus, the climactic moment involves Enya.

And yet, I loved the film when I first saw it, mainly due to the wonderful combination of wit, quotability, Shakespeare, and magic realism. Flaws and all, I was still ready to call it Martin's masterpiece when I rejoined the Rude Mechanicals from a semester abroad in London to take a part in their production of AS YOU LIKE IT. This was notable for two reasons: 1.) it was my first ever exposure to the play, and 2.) it was where I met Tammy.

When I revisited L.A. STORY not long after AYLI wrapped up and my affair with Tammy went into full-blown adolescent Chernobyl, I noticed something I had never--could never have--caught the first times around. It was a moment that would pass unnoticed by even most Shakespeare nerds, a quote that is hardly well-known, unless of course you had reason to know AS YOU LIKE IT pretty damn well.

As such, try to imagine how I felt when I saw this scene:

Even watching this out-of-context clip, my eyes still burn.

Time to revisit this film, methinks.

*As opposed to my usual date movie choices, RAVENOUS and THE NINTH CONFIGURATION. Or if I'm feeling mushy, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL.
thehefner: (Titus Andronicus: I made you eat!)
Anatomy of a Supervillain: an excellent essay that explores the questions, "Why do we see so many rehashings of old villains and why do we rarely see any new bad guys? And why are the new ones so often shunted aside and forgotten?"

All mainstream superhero writers should pay heed to this essay. It brings up excellent and timeless points throughout.

I really should know better than to read Newsarama's message boards, but when the subject is the upcoming Harvey Dent origin mini-series TWO-FACE YEAR ONE, of course I had to. What really took my notice is how the majority of comments seem to be "Ugh, we don't need another Two-Face origin! We have THE LONG HALLOWEEN!"

There are so many reasons why this makes me want to *headdesk* and rage*, it's like they all come rushing up at once and get jammed--Three Stooges style--in the doorway of my brain. I can go into them all in the comments, if anyone actually cares and wants to discus.

For now, it's certainly clear that a large contingent of comic fans are closed-minded and adverse to new ideas (in the form of reinterpretations, in this case). But then, maybe I shouldn't read too much into this, as Newsarama's boards are truly the internet's vilest hive of scum and fucktardery.

And finally, Itchy and Scratchy do TITUS ANDRONICUS: the only truly worthwhile example of the whole "Simpsons do Shakespeare" comic. Are there still Shakespeare snobs out there who look down on TITUS?

*ENTIRELY besides the fact that I'm writing one. Honestly, I swear, I have more reasons!
thehefner: (Titus: Goths Got Your Tongue?)
The AV Club wrote of Paul Scofield's passing:

A gifted stage actor with--as the AP notes--"a dramatic, craggy face and an unforgettable voice likened to a Rolls-Royce starting up or the sound rumbling out of low organ pipes in an ancient crypt," Scofield had few film roles following his breakout performance in Seasons, preferring to stick to the theater that he loved so much. Nevertheless, he scored a second Oscar nomination for playing the famed poet patriarch to Ralph Fiennes' troubled Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show, and had memorable turns in The Train, A Delicate Balance, Henry V, Hamlet, and the 1996 version of The Crucible.

Scofield was an unusually humble man, turning down parts frequently and thrice refusing the knighthood, but among other actors he was already a legend: When hailed as the heir to Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, Richard Burton demurred that it was Scofield who deserved that rank; a 2004 poll of the Royal Shakespeare Company proclaimed Scofield's turn as King Lear "the greatest Shakespearean performance ever." Good night, sweet prince, and may your passing be the last we have to endure for a little while.

For my part, Peter Brook's 1971 film of KING LEAR is the greatest version of my favorite Shakespeare play I've ever seen, and Scofield's understated performance was somehow far more powerful than any shouting, yelping, crazypants Lear. It's a fucking crime that it's not on DVD.

As with Clarke's passing, t's wonderful we had him for so long, and it's still a real loss.
thehefner: (Titus Andronicus: I made you eat!)
Heads up, fans of Hamlet and/or metal.

For those who don't watch METALOCALYPSE, there's an episode where Nathan Explosion, lead singer of the metal band (and twelfth largest economy in the world) Dethklok records the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. His aim to make Shakespeare metal.

In the actual episode, we didn't see too much of the actual performance. However--and I am very peeved that no one has told me about this--in the DVD, this here video is a special feature.

Online Videos by

(Erm, just ignore this link, the video above is all I'm posting here)

Holy. Bejabbers. I'm dying here.

I haven't had the time to watch the whole thing yet, but that easily joins the ranks of Arnold Schwarzenegger's HAMLET:

And, of course, the still-brillaint South Park (Canadian) HAMLET:

thehefner: (Titus Andronicus: We're gonna be in a pi)
So Liam pointed me toward one of the only surviving bits of footage from the very first Shakespeare adaptation put to film back in 1899. Now, which Shakespeare play do you think was given this honor? HAMLET? LEAR? MACKY-B? TITUS' HOUSE OF PIE?

For the Rude Mechanicals out there, let's put it this way: feel free to add your own soundtrack of loud, long, wet dysentery farts.

Wow. He's only slightly less over-the-top than I was.

Hey [ profile] fiveseconddelay, how goes the DVD progress?

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