Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

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domino harvey
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Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#1 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:39 pm

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THE SHAKESPEARE ADAPTATIONS MINI-LIST
August 01 - September 23


All filmed adaptations of Shakespeare plays are eligible. This includes filmed theatrical/stage performances, faithful period adaptations (Joseph L Mankiewicz’ Julius Caesar et al), faithful modern-set adaptations (Michael Almereyda's Cymbeline et al), loose adaptations (Tim Blake Nelson's O et al), and broad adaptations (Ten Things I Hate About You et al). Biographical films, both real and imagined, about Shakespeare himself (All is True et al), films about Shakespearean actors performing various works (the Dresser et al), and other tangentially Shakespeare-related works are not eligible. Films may be of any length. Episodes of anthology television series are eligible, should any exist that meet the above perimeters.

The minimum and standard number of submitted films for each participating member is 10, in ranked order (With number one being the best and so on down the line). However, if you feel especially well-versed in takes on the Bard or just can’t bare to limit yourself to a mere ten titles, you may submit up to twenty ranked titles (ie 20 total max) or any variant number between ten and twenty (so yes, your list may contain eighteen films, in honor of comparing thee to a summer’s day).

I am open to the idea of concurrently collecting submissions for favorite Shakespeare plays in addition to / apart from the film adaptations for a supplemental list of the board's picks for top Shakespeare plays, but I leave that open for our discussion when the thread opens...

Lists should be PMed to me, domino harvey, no later than September 23, 2019. No lists will be accepted before August 1st.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#2 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:34 am

Let's start this off with some technicalities (I know, first thing thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers): I've already been contacted about these six question mark films. My judgments, in order of ease of call:

Strange Brew (Hamlet), My Own Private Idaho (the Henriad), Chimes at Midnight (the Henriad): All eligible for the list

Hamlet 2 and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Hamlet): Trickier problem cases. Neither is an actual adaptation of Hamlet, but they work in conjunction with Hamlet in a way that doesn't make them easy nos. But ultimately, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may help us deepen our appreciation of Hamlet and is non-sensical if we don't know the source inspiration already, but it's an adaptation of a non-Shakespeare play, so ultimately, no. Same initial caveat for Hamlet 2 with the reasoning here being that this is a fictional performers performing film, like the Dresser, so ultimately, also no

King Lear (Godard) The unkindest call of all. On the one hand, this is admittedly Godard adapting only the first three pages and the last three pages of the play and filling the rest of the film with material that could barely be called tangential to the source. On the other hand, this is completely in line with Godard's standard operating puckishness, and the moments that are literal adaptation are truly inspired. But removing my own affection for the film from the equation, this does meet the metrics of adaptation, even in its broadness. It's eligible

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#3 Post by bottled spider » Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:49 am

Julius Caesar (Doran, 2012). Set in post-independence Africa, performed by an all-black RSC cast. This play has some pitfalls avoided by Doran. Because Caesar is epileptic and hard of hearing, pompous and vain and manipulable by flattery, he can come across as toothless. Here, Caesar is genuinely menacing, as of course he must be for the play to work. There is a real sense of paranoia among the conspirators, sometimes missing in other productions. And I like how soldierly the conspirators are, who can be presented as intellectual, patrician, and older (I think) than they should be. Because the play contains so much actual oratory, some productions slip into an almost continuously oratorical mode of delivery, where here there is a fuller range of expression. Brutus, especially, is given the depth and complexity the character deserves.

Both this and Doran's 2009 RSC Hamlet starring David Tennant (whatever that one's flaws) left me feeling that I understood the plays better than before.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#4 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:22 am

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:34 am
Let's start this off with some technicalities (I know, first thing thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers): I've already been contacted about these six question mark films. My judgments, in order of ease of call:

Strange Brew (Hamlet), My Own Private Idaho (the Henriad), Chimes at Midnight (the Henriad): All eligible for the list

Hamlet 2 and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Hamlet): Trickier problem cases. Neither is an actual adaptation of Hamlet, but they work in conjunction with Hamlet in a way that doesn't make them easy nos. But ultimately, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may help us deepen our appreciation of Hamlet and is non-sensical if we don't know the source inspiration already, but it's an adaptation of a non-Shakespeare play, so ultimately, no. Same initial caveat for Hamlet 2 with the reasoning here being that this is a fictional performers performing film, like the Dresser, so ultimately, also no

King Lear (Godard) The unkindest call of all. On the one hand, this is admittedly Godard adapting only the first three pages and the last three pages of the play and filling the rest of the film with material that could barely be called tangential to the source. On the other hand, this is completely in line with Godard's standard operating puckishness, and the moments that are literal adaptation are truly inspired. But removing my own affection for the film from the equation, this does meet the metrics of adaptation, even in its broadness. It's eligible
Thanks for the explanations domino! I would have likely included Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but the call is fair. The eligibility of Godard's King Lear makes my day, though.

What I'm excited about for this project is not only catching up on the straight and loose Shakespeare adaptations that I've missed and not prioritized over the years, but also rooting analysis outside of my normative methodology and psychological angles and applying cinematic techniques to the manipulation towards effectiveness of the Shakespearean material itself. Adding extra layers or possibilities in how to approach analysis of a film for this project will be a challenge, with a less clearly defined direction, and there could be multiple posts on the same film that read completely differently depending on their area of focus. I also expect there to be a range of approaches in straight vs. loose adaptations, and while I initially expected the looser ones to feature most prevalently on my list, a preliminary and admittedly hastily put together top 10 features predominantly faithful period adaptations. It will be difficult to knock my number one, Chimes of Midnight from its top spot, not to mention Welles' other two from the top 10, but this is a rather underexplored genre for me, so I'm excited for recommendations and am going in with more of an open mind than I probably do in most instances.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#5 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:27 am

Good news for those who were wondering how they were going to justify voting for season one of Deadwood:

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#6 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:52 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:22 am
What I'm excited about for this project is not only catching up on the straight and loose Shakespeare adaptations that I've missed and not prioritized over the years, but also rooting analysis outside of my normative methodology and psychological angles and applying cinematic techniques to the manipulation towards effectiveness of the Shakespearean material itself.
Which is an interesting question in itself. To take it back to the post before yours, I must admit all those RSC Shakespeare adaptations that radically reconfigure the source material with gimmicks look and sound dreadful and come off as insecure about the modern allure of Shakespeare. But I'm intrigued by bottle spider's account of their Julius Caesar, not the least because I don't think there's any need to make Caesar a credible threat to anyone but Brutus, and the play argues he comes around due to the influence of the others. But it's an intriguing reading to make Caesar into a viable villain

I used to be staunchly anti-adaptation in principle, but like a lot of things I've mellowed with age on this matter. For me, I guess I'm looking for any of these things out of a successful adaptation:

Does it show me something new in the text?
Godard's completely brilliant reworking of what I think is the single greatest thing ever written, the opening scene of King Lear, does this by having Burgess Meredith's Lear figure receive the professions of love from his insincere daughters via telegram-- how better to show their distance, and Lear's susceptibility to verbal flattery? And then the digression into enunciating "Nothing" as "No thing," re-aligning a familiar text in an unfamiliar way... As much as I enjoy the film as a whole, it's frustrating to imagine what else Godard could have done had he actually read the whole play!

Does it strengthen or reconfirm what is already great about the text?
Rosalind is one of Shakespeare's greatest creations and Bryce Dallas Howard's interpretation of Rosalind in Branagh's unfairly maligned As You Like It is so spot-on, so perfectly realized and representative of everything that has made audiences fall in love with her for centuries that she is Rosalind when I go back and reread the play. I can't think of anyone else but her in the role now, and I value having the film so successfully warp my appreciation!

Does it push the original text into new avenues that heighten my appreciation of the play?
Here is where the loose adaptations come in, though I think staging these kind of things with so-called fidelity to the text is a mistake (see: my comments on RSC above). But here's where the values and qualities that film does best come into play. While I love West Side Story and may still vote for it, it doesn't deepen my appreciation of Romeo and Juliet. But Tim Blake Nelson's O is so clever in how it transposes the high drama of Othello onto the high school basketball court that it strengthens my appreciation for the original while also giving me a great film to value even apart from its function as an adaption. That one really kind of fits the bill all around for these categories, and it wasn't until writing all this out now that it even occurred to me that it would be a good contender for number one on my list!

Is it just so perverse an adaptation that nothing else really matters?
Really only thinking of Almereyda's Cymbeline here, but that one's so singular that it deserves its own consideration

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#7 Post by knives » Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:25 pm

I'm coming at this as more a Shakespeare skeptic. I think he's a perfectly good playwright, but not significantly better or worse than other important playwrights of the era.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#8 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:44 pm

Thanks for this breakdown domino, I'll definitely be referring back to it as I go through the works.

knives, I'm with you in that I'm very divided on his works. For example, I don't think much of Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night's Dream (though seeing the latter performed by a theatre group can be great depending on the actors' approach), but love Macbeth and Hamlet. Then there are plenty of plays like the Henrys and King Lear that I've only read excerpts or parts of, and liked some elements and disliked others. I plan (let's see if it happens) to read some of the works I haven't gotten to yet, and perhaps re-read others or parts of them as I engage with this project (I'll finally have a reason to have saved most of my high school copies of the texts I've mentioned above for ~15 years), hopefully shining new light on both the plays themselves and the films respectively. I do think that where Shakespeare's greatest strengths lie, or at least where he is most successful for me, is in his storytelling specific to character dynamics and individual psychologies clashing with others, with themes that spin such a large catchman area it's no wonder so many films are considered adaptations of his works, even loosely.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#9 Post by knives » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:04 pm

I actually quite like Midsummer Night's, but in general I feel the Bard's strengths were in the comic. His histories are what really sags for me as well as Romeo and Juliet plus Taming of the Shrew. There are a few that I hope to get to that I've never experienced before though like Measure for Measure.

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Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#10 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:25 pm

knives wrote:I'm coming at this as more a Shakespeare skeptic. I think he's a perfectly good playwright, but not significantly better or worse than other important playwrights of the era.
Which of the others would you rate alongside him?

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#11 Post by Shrew » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:33 pm

Here's a pretty decent list of Shakespeare Adaptations on Letterboxd, though it does contain a lot of looser adaptations/films that heavily reference Shakespeare (like, uh, Renaissance Man?). Still good to help jog some ideas.

While we're at it, here's a couple other borderline cases:
Cukor's A Double Life, wherein Ronald Colman is an actor playing Othello whose life starts to reflect the play (with method acting arguably taking the role of Iago).
Chabrol's Ophelia, wherein the main character starts thinking of his life as Hamlet's and takes steps to make it more so.
(There's also the recent YA girl-power adaptation of the same name starring Daisy Ridley, but A. it's probably terrible and B. it probably hits the same exception as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of being an adaptation of another work based on Shakespeare).

I'm also planning to check out some of Matias Pineiro's films, which supposedly focus on performers whose lives intersect/repeat those of some Shakespeare characters. I expect they fall more on the performance side than the adaptation side, but I'll report back. For reference, these are: Viola, Hermia and Helena, Rosalind, The Princess of France (involves Love's Labour's Lost).

Also, my library has a bunch of the RSC and BBC versions of the plays, so if anyone has particular recommendations among those, I'm listening.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#12 Post by knives » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:35 pm

Marlowe is the first to come to mind though he is slightly not as good. While a generation later I do prefer Moliere.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#13 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:21 pm

Shrew wrote:
Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:33 pm

Also, my library has a bunch of the RSC and BBC versions of the plays, so if anyone has particular recommendations among those, I'm listening.
Colin watched and wrote about all of the BBC adaptations here

Chabrol’s Ophelia is a yes (very loose adaptations are okay), Cukor’s A Double Life is a no for the performers rule, though as an anticipation of Hollywood method acting, it brings its own value.

I doubt anyone is voting for the current Ophelia in theatres now, but it seems like a grayer area than R & G Are DeadYellow Sky (the Tempest) is undoubtedly eligible despite being based on a book no one’s ever heard of, West Side Story is also a stage musical first, but... I’m seeing the problem with making a case against Stoppard’s creative adaptation. So I’m reversing my judgment on appeal: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead IS now eligible

And as I used to tell my students, you know why everyone always says Shakespeare is the greatest? Because he is. I hope all the skeptics and doubters read or reread more of his plays and eventually see the light. And of course you can still submit a list even if you hate Shakespeare— and that might actually even be kind of fun to read too

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#14 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:39 pm

In anticipation of diving back into Shakespeare, I wanted a good refresher and while I only intended to listen to the intro, I ended up marathoning all 24 lectures of Marc C Conner's How to Read and Understand Shakespeare (also available on back channels) and I can heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to read more Shakespeare. Conner is a professor who has taught Shakespeare to all age groups both in a classroom and on the stage. He is passionate about Shakespeare and his goal is to get people to experience these works. He places a higher value on performance than I do, but fundamentally we agree with Hamlet that the play's the thing. This is not a Harold Bloom-esque heart-eyed approach, though. Conner's tack is to discuss in depth twelve of Shakespeare's plays and highlight recurring motifs and ways to approach the text (which he calls "tools") so that any reader can ideally go on to read/see live these or any other Shakespeare plays and use the 40+ different tools provided to get the most out of them. This is obviously geared towards those audiences that are intimidated by Shakespeare, but as someone better versed than the intended audience, I thought his approach was excellent and provided many helpful insights and approaches that I'm eager to put in place while rereading. His discussions ARE spoiler-heavy for the lectures dedicated to specific plays, so it may not be ideal if you want to go in blind to some of these

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#15 Post by Shrew » Fri Aug 02, 2019 12:02 am

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:21 pm
Chabrol’s Ophelia is a yes (very loose adaptations are okay), Cukor’s A Double Life is a no for the performers rule, though as an anticipation of Hollywood method acting, it brings its own value.

I doubt anyone is voting for the current Ophelia in theatres now, but it seems like a grayer area than R & G Are DeadYellow Sky (the Tempest) is undoubtedly eligible despite being based on a book no one’s ever heard of, West Side Story is also a stage musical first, but... I’m seeing the problem with making a case against Stoppard’s creative adaptation. So I’m reversing my judgment on appeal: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead IS now eligible
I'm guessing Kiss Me Kate is also good? Even though it has a bunch of character's performing parts of the play, the framing narrative is still pulling a good deal from Taming of the Shrew. That feels like it's the big problem with A Double Life. The framing takes the climactic scene from the play, but the rest of really involves nothing of Othello. Whereas I might think eligible a hypothetical version of the film where an understudy is urging Colman to murder his leading actress out of jealousy (and not a random waitress out of stress).

I'm also thinking about Rohmer's A Winter's Tale, though I think that only really qualifies as an adaptation of
SpoilerShow
the ending
.

To get away from annoyingly tossing out possible titles and more to actual discussion of a (still only possible) title:

Hermia and Helena (Pineiro, 2016)
Having now seen this, I think it is eligible (it is not a play within a play), though it’s as loose as adaptation can get. It might better be called a thesis film, playing with a few key ideas from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (doubles, the mutability of love, shifting identity vis a vis others) but eventually abandoning the source’s plot and veering into completely different territory. The film’s actual plot involves artists Carmen and Camila trading places with each other in New York and Buenos Aires, and with it each other’s circle of friends, including potential beaus Leo and Lukas. From there, we mostly follow Camila in New York as she tries translating A Midsummer Night’s Dream into Spanish and dealing with various relationships left in flux by Carmen. Following the “double” thesis, the film is filled with lovely double exposures and quick flashback cuts to Buenos Aires. At a few moments text from Shakespeare’s original or Camila’s translation is overlaid on the action, and in what is the film’s visual highlight, uses negative exposure with recitation to imply the application of “magic” potion that changs Camila’s desires. From there, things stop with Shakespeare.

As a film, there are plenty of interesting ideas here, but none of them really feel like they were followed to their full potential. For instance, there’s something intriguing about using long distance as a naturalistic substitute for Shakespeare’s love potion suggested by early scenes, but the film quickly moves on. Far more than Shakespeare, I felt the influence of Hong Sang-Soo, especially Hill of Freedom, with its laidback chatter and chronological jumbling. Forum favorite Mike D’Angelo accuses Pineiro of using Shakespeare’s “instant paneer of respectability” to get into festivals, which I don’t think is fair (there is enough filmmaking prowess here to stand on its own) even if it’s not completely inaccurate (the Shakespeare is used more as points from which to launch tangents).

This is Pineiro’s epic at 83 minutes without credits, so I’m still planning to watch the ~60 min each Viola and The Princess of France for this project.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#16 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 02, 2019 12:21 am

I’ve actually seen Hermia and Helena and can remember very little actual components to A Midsummer Night’s Dream outside of the scant scribbled text overlays and there’s no real paralleling of the play’s basic narrative that I can recall. Not eligible, unless I’m forgetting something

Kiss Me Kate’s external plot mirrors the on-stage one more fruitfully as I recall, but I may need to revisit before making a final call. As Samuel Goldwyn once said, the most I can offer is a definite maybe. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” is hilarious, though, even in the cleaned up version of the film (“Just recite an occasional sonnet / And your lap will have honey upon it!” is unforgettable, but you can’t hear it here— though somehow they got away with “Kick her right in the Coriolanus”! Here’s a good version with the full Cole Porter lyrics)

Calling the Rohmer Hiver film an adaptation of the Winter’s Tale is wayyyyyyy too much of a stretch. Not eligible

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#17 Post by swo17 » Fri Aug 02, 2019 12:28 am

domino's going to have to spend the whole project watching and ruling on marginal cases

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#18 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:48 am

The main joy of my retirement years (outside of my 5yo granddaughter) is having the freedom to travel around the Northeast US and try to see one production of each of the plays (three to go). Eric Minton recently accomplished this feat in one year, check out his great website http://www.shakespeareances.com/index.html

For Shakespeare skeptics (and believers) I highly recommend the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton Virginia. They have a replica of the Blackfriars theater and the best Shakespearean company I've encountered. Lights are on, 12 audience members have an opportunity to sit on stage, lots of interaction. The cast are also accomplished musicians and perform contemporary songs that comment on the play you're seeing, before the performance and during intermission.

The immediacy of performance and Shakespeare's theatrical genius (right up there with his poetic genius) are obviously lost in visual adaptations. I often have a difficult time staying awake, sometimes I try to follow the text as I'm watching but that can seem like work. Chimes at Midnight transcends the difficulties but that's more Welles' cinematic magic than it is Shakespeare.

Branagh brings a liveliness to his versions especially Love's Labour Lost, once my least favorite play. I've seen several live performances since and it is now one of my favorites, but its a tricky one.

I prefer modern updates. Ethan Hawke's Hamlet is a good one but there is still something jarring with the Elizabethan language. Kurosawa provides a useful template. The Bad Sleep Well is endlessly fascinating to me, capturing the tragic dimension and as illustration of Hamlet's enduring relevance.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#19 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:04 am

Prof Conner highly recommended the ASC as well in his lectures. I looked into it and they’re performing Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra through November. I’ve been debating making a trip down to Staunton since it’s only a couple hours from me, glad to hear another voice saying it’s worthwhile

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#20 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:25 am

^ I'll be going in October. They're also doing Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra which I've never seen, which makes for an intriguing trio, along with one of their commissioned plays written to connect to the other plays.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#21 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:22 pm

Richard III (Olivier, 1955): Having not read this play, I can't speak to the particulars of Olivier’s adaptation, but he successfully presented the material as accessible, well-paced and never waning its rhythm. The mise en scène of the set design, lighting, and especially the camera push-ins and more tactful, graceful movements, lends itself to investing the audience without becoming imposing or a character itself. It’s often difficult for me to take Olivier’s Shakespeare roles seriously for some reason. He can come off as hammy but sometimes I doubt whether that is fair criticism for a Shakespearean performance, as some characters are intentionally written as such and this one feels to be in that camp. I enjoyed the dark plotting to this play and felt Olivier embodied a mood both entertaining and lightly devilish, an execution that seemed to match the intent behind his choices. I don’t know how this compares with other adaptations of this play, but this was a successful film on many levels, though nothing exhilarating all the same.

Cymbeline (Almereyda, 2014): This was just terrific, and undeserving of its critical dismissal. Almereyda gets your blood pumping right away from one of the best beginnings to a film I've seen lately, using the opening credits, or rather the introduction of story points, bluntly spliced with brief images of the characters set to a mild yet creeping intense beat, effective in its foreboding. The cast is great, with Hawke showing a particular knack for taking this material and making it feel natural, which makes sense since he’s been doing Shakespeare and theatre for a long time. The brooding intensity of the cinematic choices, especially using still shots with little camera movement and an intrusive sound design, is everpresent, and the decision to condense the play into 90 minutes creates a rapid pace that just barely keeps up with the presentation of new characters and plot twists spun throughout the narrative. Choosing to utilize Shakespeare’s language in this gritty modern setting emphasizes its power in juxtaposing the well-spoken intelligence of speech and thought with the violence and thin moral coating of these characters, exposing the meaning behind these words in eliminating realistic aspects by aggressively breaking the laws of film. Never has it been so fiercely apparent from an adaptation of one of his plays how little it takes to break trust and project anger with action against those who have unknowingly, or often who we have misperceived as having, attacked our egos.

Chimes of Midnight (Welles, 1965) I'll have to come back to this one again after reading some of the source text (though I'd appreciate a recommendation on what to prioritize, given that this was based on more than just a few plays!) but since it's my favorite Shakespeare adaptation by a mile, I'll try to write some qualifying thoughts as to why:

Welles' film not only serves as the most successfully comprehensive exhibit of the dynamics and psychologies of people in Shakespeare's plays that I've seen, but demonstrates the best use of film language and methodology to achieve this goal. One either likes or doesn't like Welles' style, but here he utilizes his signatures in ways that reinforce the material of the story. The common use of odd camera angles creates a surrealism by way of emulating a range of moods from anxiety to enthusiasm, and Welles' jarring sharpness to editing and abrasive sound design cuts through the screen to the viewer and works step in step with range of louder or softer poetic prose and emotion in the dialogue to service the intent of the temperament. The way the match of energy is best exemplified for these loud, intense and abrasive moments is in the infamous battle sequence, where the editing is so chaotic that we are constantly de-stabilized with each image barring any romantic projection onto the art of war. This is arguably the most violent battle scene ever put on celluloid for these very reasons, horrifying not only in the image but in Welles' manipulation of the image with sound, savagely stripping each away from us in split-second increments, never allowing for the comfort of continuity. No singular collage of imagery I've seen before or since has been as sobering as this one is to the trauma of war.

Contrasting this energy is the way Welles can tone down his temper to dispense a mellowness in environment, though one that still implements his methods to achieve bite when necessary in conflicts or flares in relationships between characters. The scenes in the inn use a exuberant musical score and light mood that marks safety through fantasy, and effectively transports one to this magical realm of abandonment of duty, and delay of maturity. This escape of responsibility is time limited and in the scenes where this is realized, and where life occurs outside of these walls, we aren’t given as extremely surrealistic technique or the comfort of small spaces, but more long shots through castles and outside areas with a depth of field that reaches as far toward the endless crevices of space as a camera possibly can, and certainly no accompanying jolly musical score. Responsibility and social structure may reign, but they suck the pleasure out of life.

For relationships, Falstaff is both a very comic and tragic character. His association with Hal appears to be based on selfishness and lies but the use of space and the subtleties in their interplay signifies a close bond, perhaps unconventional but no less real. Both men put up walls blocking their true cravings for emotional connection: Falstaff with narcissism and pompous defense mechanisms, and Hal by taunting his mentor, but this is no mean-spirited relationship between con artists. It’s playful and oddly reciprocal in the way they indirectly allow the other man to use his own unique skills, be they Hal's intelligence and wit, or Falstaff's power of the tongue in linguistic argumentation, to 'best' the other, a social offering if there ever was one in its sacrifice of one ego to feed the another. It’s actually a sweet relationship through this lens and shows how the way we often appreciate another’s worth isn’t always through normative verbal manners but in hidden and seemingly passive social mechanisms. The tragedy that arises in the end is powerful for this very reason, as defense mechanisms are laid bare but neither man is fully capable of allowing these defenses to shield or spare the brutal and painful truths now seemingly rooted in place statically for eternity. One shows less than the other, but flat affect does not indicate no emotion, and the solidification of Hal, a character we've enjoyed watching morph and creatively flex his identity throughout the film, is possibly the most tragic of all. His emotionless face bears a joyless future, marking a loss of innocence and the surrendering of true friendship as his identity becomes unified with the state's, losing any chance at true self-actualization or connectivity beyond the inauthentic role born from the crown he wears.

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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#22 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:30 pm

I'll have to come back to this one again after reading some of the source text (though I'd appreciate a recommendation on what to prioritize, given that this was based on more than just a few plays!)
Technically the Henriad is four plays— Richard II, Henry IV Pt 1, Henry IV Pt 2, and Henry V (and then Merry Wives Of Windsor as the Trapper John to these plays’ MASH), though some bloat this to include the first quartet of histories (ie the “first” Henriad of the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III). If you’re just interested in Falstaff/Hal interactions, you can just read the two Henry IVs, but it’s really the cream filling to the whole Oreo cookie of the smaller four play tetralogy

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bottled spider
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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#23 Post by bottled spider » Fri Aug 02, 2019 4:08 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:22 pm
Richard III (Olivier, 1955): Having not read this play, I can't speak to the particulars of Olivier’s adaptation, but he successfully presented the material as accessible, well-paced and never waning its rhythm...
Olivier's adaptation is masterful in its abridgment. The play is complicated not so much in its plot as such, but in its web of inter-related characters with back stories you are supposed to simply know. Instead of trimming a line here and line there, as many adaptors do, Olivier boldly excises an entire character (Princess Whatshername), which simplifies matters considerably and eliminates a tedious and dispensable scene of Princess Whatshername and Lady Godknowswho competitively inventorying their murdered kin.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#24 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Aug 02, 2019 4:45 pm

Thanks for that! I definitely felt like Olivier's film flowed a lot smoother than I expected it to read. I'm leaving work to go pick up Richard II, Henry IV Pt 1, Henry IV Pt 2, Henry V, The Tempest, and King Lear, none of which I've read in full, so that should keep me busy for my weekend on-call for work. Any other recommended plays are welcome, though I'm prioritizing these as the films I'm planning to watch next are based on them. It's probably going to take an entire day to sit down with King Lear and Godard's film and try to make heads or tails of that quasi-meta-whateveritis-adaptation, but it's also probably the opportunity I'm most looking forward to engaging in for this project.

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knives
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Re: Shakespeare Adaptations Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#25 Post by knives » Fri Aug 02, 2019 5:05 pm

Julius Caesar (Burge, '70)
This highlights a potential problem with doing a Shakespeareathon. Once I've got a particular favorite adaptation of a play, in this case Mank's, a perfectly competent one will prove to seem annoying and not worth the effort of watching. This movie is okay and Robard's lead performance isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be, but the movie just doesn't rise above being an adaptation. Though his role is small this movie did secure for me Robert Vaughn as one of my favorite cinematic sad sacks. His eyes always look on the verge of tears.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Hoffman, '99)
This is a pretty humble adaptation, but in aiming just to be fun and silly it manages to be better than a most of the 'serious' or 'artistic' adaptations of Shakespeare's work. Most miraculously it manages to have an entertaining Puck which I don't think I've seen outside of Gargoyles.

Romeo + Juliet (Luhrmann)
This is better then every other Luhrmann I've seen, but I suspect that is a technological concern more than anything else. This also makes much more clear his connection to Jarman's sort of queer experimentalism though his immature broism, compare this to the critical approach of Jubilee, is so annoying that it defeats what potential good could come from it. Also everyone is shouting all of the time and it is the most annoying thing ever.

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