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Richard III (1995)

Benzadmiral

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This morning I caught part of this modern-dress (well, sort of) version of Shakespeare's Richard III. It would be of interest to FL people, I think, because of its setting in an alternate-history 1930s Britain where an English civil war (the Wars of the Roses, I suppose) is going on, but there are automobiles, trains, tanks, and handguns, among other things. Ian McKellen plays Richard, hunchbacked, limping, and smoking incessantly while frequently wearing his military uniform. Annette Bening plays Edward IV's wife Elizabeth as an American, foreshadowing Downton Abbey, as do the appearances of Maggie Smith and Jim Carter. And early in the film a big band-style song cleverly features lyrics from Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love."

Anyway, it looked fascinating. Has anyone seen it all the way through?
 
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Doctor Strange

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Yes, it's great. Not only is McKellen tremendous (shouting "My kingdom for a horse!" when his jeep gets stuck in the mud!), but the production design - which gradually changes from lovely interwar Downton Abbey nostalgia to very Nazi-esque uniforms and banners - is brilliant.
 

Nick D

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One of my favorite adaptations of one of my favorite plays. Richard giving the opening monologue to Edward's face at the beginning is brilliant. Yes, it's the Wars of the Roses, but in this context imagine the Spanish Civil War had influenced England in the '30s. Love it.
 

Harp

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This morning I caught part of this modern-dress (well, sort of) version of Shakespeare's Richard III.
Anyway, it looked fascinating. Has anyone seen it all the way through?


Richard III I missed, and have been intending to order along with Branagh's Henry V and a Venice Beach version of Romeo & Juliet that included Brian Dennehy.
Branagh brought Henry to life with his Crispin Day speech.
 

Benzadmiral

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Richard III I missed, and have been intending to order along with Branagh's Henry V and a Venice Beach version of Romeo & Juliet that included Brian Dennehy.
Branagh brought Henry to life with his Crispin Day speech.
I remember hearing about the modern-dress Romeo and Juliet -- with Claire Danes, I think?
 

Edward

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I remember hearing about the modern-dress Romeo and Juliet -- with Claire Danes, I think?

Yes, and a young Lenny Dicaprio as Romeo.

I didn't care for its interpretation of Mercutio much, but still an excellent film. One of those rarer occasions when the monkeys in Baz Luhrman's head produced something great by chance. The best thing about it is its understanding that the core relationship in the source material is NOT love, but rather teenage infatuation.
 

Doctor Strange

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Agreed: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet gets more things right than wrong. And some of its modernizing touches - automatic pistols with the brand name "Sword", Paul Rudd as rising politico "Dave Paris" wooing Juliet - are very clever. But it wouldn't work at all if Danes and DiCaprio didn't play it seriously, and boy, do they have excellent chemistry.

For the record, I will always name Franco Zeffirelli's film, which I saw theatrically as an impressionable 13-year-old in 1968, as my favorite movie version. It's still gorgeous and moving, a real classic. But Luhrmann's is a worthy modern-dress adaptation. (I was very happy to see that when my kids were studying the play in high school a few years ago, their classes watched both films.)
 

Edward

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Agreed: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet gets more things right than wrong. And some of its modernizing touches - automatic pistols with the brand name "Sword", Paul Rudd as rising politico "Dave Paris" wooing Juliet - are very clever. But it wouldn't work at all if Danes and DiCaprio didn't play it seriously, and boy, do they have excellent chemistry.

Yes... I'm a big fan of modern dress Shakespeare. There's something to be said, of course, for productions that keep it to the original look, but there's so much room for creativity in working in an alternative time-period to it - whether that's Rome and Juliet in 1990s Venice Beach, or Patrick Stewart's Macbeth, set in Kruschev-era Soviet Russia.

For the record, I will always name Franco Zeffirelli's film, which I saw theatrically as an impressionable 13-year-old in 1968, as my favorite movie version. It's still gorgeous and moving, a real classic. But Luhrmann's is a worthy modern-dress adaptation. (I was very happy to see that when my kids were studying the play in high school a few years ago, their classes watched both films.)

That's the one I was shown at school, when we studied the play in my third form (aged fourteen). That was 1988/89, so the Luhrman one wasn't around... I like both. Great idea to show kids two very different realisations of the same work; I often think the reason more kids don't enjoy Shakespeare is because there isn'tg enough emphasis on what performance brings to it - acting choices, direction, sets, costumes, music.... - as distinct from just analysing it like a novel.
 

Harp

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The best thing about it is its understanding that the core relationship in the source material is NOT love, but rather teenage infatuation.

My English master, Brother Ignatius Sloan, Irish curmudgeon extraordinaire and a ba***rd's ba***rd emphatically insisted that Romeo was in love with love, and not Miss Capulet.
He tossed out Wm Shakespeare's line from Measure for Measure for emphasis: "...let your reason serve to make the truth appear where it seems hid..."
He absolutely hit the mark at the core of Romeo & Juliet but his cynicism tarred the Bard with a Machiavellian brush.:(
 

Edward

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I've long preferred Shakey's own cynicism in Antony and Cleopatra. Those two were certainly in love - with themselves.
 

Benzadmiral

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Update: I've watched the DVD from the library, and enjoyed many many things about it. Truly it's a brilliant conception. Perhaps I knew too much about the film in advance, though, but I found the sudden change from British Army togs ca. 1937 to outfits reminiscent of Hugo Boss's SS uniforms to be a little heavy-handed. And I did not care for the choice of music at the very end as Richard is dispatched. Still, living proof that Shakespeare can be made "relevant" (to use that late-1960s word) to modern audiences.

Where can I find Patrick Stewart's Soviet-era Macbeth? Is it on DVD?
 

MikeKardec

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Agreed: Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet gets more things right than wrong. And some of its modernizing touches - automatic pistols with the brand name "Sword", Paul Rudd as rising politico "Dave Paris" wooing Juliet - are very clever. But it wouldn't work at all if Danes and DiCaprio didn't play it seriously, and boy, do they have excellent chemistry.

I believe this film was ground breaking in many ways, and I'm not a Luhrmann fan at all. Quite influenced by and a serious influencer of MTV. My favorite of the tongue in cheek brand names was the FedEx like messagenger service Post Haste. As in: "Send this Post Haste!" It could only have been funnier if it had been a high fiber breakfast cereal.
 
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