BBC = Boisterous, Beautiful, Charming, PART II

March 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , )

This time I really mean it! I got into the cutesy title with my last post and then as I started writing about that BBC Television Shakespeare version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I realized the title was a bit more enthusiastic than I really felt. But now I mean it! The 2005 BBC’s Shakespeare Retold version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is definitely boisterous, beautiful, and extremely charming. I loved it!

This is a completely modern, up-to-date version using modern English (with a bit of an accent). I loved everything about it. The story is set in a modern “holiday park”… a beautiful resort with nice cabins in the woods. I’d like to vacation there! The actors are all really good. The writing is excellent. The tone is just right. I can’t say enough about this version.

The music is great—modern and right on the money. They play “Strangers in the Night” during all the crazy goings-on in the forest, “Love Potion Number 9” while Puck is applying the love potion. All the music is really good.

I love the fairies. Puck (played by Dean Lennox Kelly) is a scruffy grunge rocker type. He’s very low-key and he breaks the fourth wall all the time, talking directly to the camera to clue us in. It works very well for me. The Oberon/Titania relationship (played by Lennie James and Sharon Small) is good. Oberon’s trick on Titania is well done, and when he sees the result, he seems genuinely remorseful and makes it right. And the scene of Titania’s love nest with Bottom (Johnny Vegas) is really, really funny.

The story follows Shakespeare very closely. The love quadrangle between Hermia, Zander, James Demetrius and Helena is essentially Shakespearean. The main plot difference for me is with the Hippolyta/Theseus characters (Polly and Theo—Hermia’s parents in this version, played by Bill Paterson and Imelda Staunton). I thought their midlife relationship reevaluation was interesting. Also, Theo has conversations with Oberon who appears to him periodically to give him love advice, and apparently has done so in the past. I liked this addition to the story. And Oberon’s final advice to Theo seems a good antidote to the love-craziness going on all around in the woods: “Just enjoy what you’ve got, Theo. Just enjoy what you’ve got.”

This one’s a winner. It would be an excellent and very accessible intro to the story for high schoolers. It’s available on Netflix, both streaming and on DVD. Get it!

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BBC = Boisterous, Beautiful, Charming

March 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I knew that Romeo and Juliet was probably the low ebb of the BBC Television Shakespeare series, so I am happy to report that their version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is much better.

It is not fantastic, but it’s fun to watch and the acting is all decent. Helen Mirren is sensual and luminous as Titania. The “hempen homespuns” are bumbling, but funny. Helena (Cherith Mellor) is fun to watch as her character has to deal with the changes in her friends brought on by the fairy love juice.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this version at all. The film starts very slowly. The “Athenians” are in what appears to be an 18th century English home with a big clock ticking in the background. The four Athenian youngsters are lined up at a table as Hermia’s father tells her she must marry Demetrius and give up Lysander. Helena’s character seems so bumbling and prunish at first. I just wasn’t sure I was going to get into it.

But enter the fairy world and things started moving along nicely. The story, with all its convolutions, is very easy to follow in this version. It’s clear who is in love with who at which moment and why.

So, I liked it all in all. And it can’t help but be funny, because the play itself is so silly with the Athenians falling in and out of love and the fairies playing tricks.

HOWEVER. And it’s a big however. This version creates a dark mood, especially in the fairy kingdom. Puck is creepy and Oberon is mean-spirited. There’s a darkness hanging over the whole production that seems off to me. Again, I haven’t re-read the text yet, but my memories of this play are all lightness, magic, and comedy. That’s not the tone here. Still, I enjoyed watching this and I’m looking forward to seeing more film versions.

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The Madness of Love

March 26, 2010 at 9:47 pm (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , )

Ahh, that crazy midsummer night. This time around, I’m using the BBC Shakespeare: The Animated Tales version as my introduction to the play. I have not yet re-read the text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (it’s been 20+ years since I last read it) so I cannot comment on how closely this version follows the text. I’m assuming that like the Romeo and Juliet episode, it’s pretty true to Shakespeare, just condensed.

A fair amount of the convolutions here are explained by a narrator. This helps set the stage and simplifies much of the action. In fact, it is so simple that my preschooler was spellbound. He loved this cartoon, and was literally watching silently for the entire half hour until the very last minute when he asked if it was almost over (it was!). This is a very colorful cel-animated cartoon. Extremely watchable for any age.

I enjoyed it very much. I was giggling through much of it. The animation is very funny and I feel like it focuses more on the humorous aspects of the play than the magical. Magic is a huge part of the plot, but in this version, it’s all quite farcical rather than mystical. There is a sort of 1960s flower power feel to the fairies and magical aspects. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s cute, yet not too cutesy.

The disk with A Midsummer Night’s Dream also has The Tempest and As You Like It. I did not watch them. This series of 12 animated, condensed plays is available on Netflix, so I plan to just get the disks again as I proceed through the other plays. Onward through the fog!

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Shakespeare in Love

March 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , )

I spoke too soon. I nearly forgot one of my favorite movies! How could I? Shakespeare in Love is such a perfect way to end my Romeo and Juliet postings. It’s modern, it’s witty, it’s romantic, it’s beautiful, and… it’s all about the writing of Romeo and Juliet! It’s entirely fictional, but quite believable—such a wonderful story and it’s easy to get drawn into it.

Will Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes) is a young playwright with writer’s block. He’s worried about money and getting his work produced and meeting deadlines. You get a real sense of the business of theater back then. The audiences want to be laughing in the aisles. They want dogs doing goofy tricks. There is pressure from theater managers and loan sharks to produce popular, funny material that people will pay to see. 

So, Will is supposed to be writing a play called Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter (and it’s supposed to have dogs in it!). But he can’t find his muse. He thinks his muse is Rosaline. We’ll call this version of Rosaline “savvy.” There may be words that describe her better. Let’s say she’s “well-known” in the theater business.

While chatting in a tavern, rival playwright Christopher Marlowe gives Shakespeare some quick plot ideas to get him started with Romeo and Ethel—his off-the-cuff ideas lay down the basics of what will become Romeo and Juliet.

Will eventually finds his muse. Turns out it’s a young aristocratic woman named Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) who longs to be an actor (in a time when only men could be actors). She dresses as a man to audition for the part of Romeo and gets it. Shakespeare soon figures out her secret and they fall in love.

As their star-crossed love story unfolds, it is entwined with the storyline of Romeo and Juliet. Much of Will and Viola’s relationship becomes embedded in the play as Shakespeare writes it. And he’s writing it while the actors rehearse it in the theater. It is a wonderful thing to watch! There’s a party much like the Capulet feast at Viola’s home where Will spies Viola and falls in love the way Romeo does. Viola’s father plans to wed her to Lord Wessex (played by Colin Firth), a man she doesn’t love (paralleling Juliet’s intended marriage to Paris). Viola’s nurse is very similar to Juliet’s. The parallels and references to Romeo and Juliet are continuous and ingenious and knit seamlessly into the film. There is never an awkward moment; it all works together perfectly.

And then there’s the production of Romeo and Juliet. It almost doesn’t get off the ground when the theater is closed for indecency when Viola is outed as a woman playing a man. But another theater manager lends them his stage and Will himself takes on the role of Romeo. Through more hilarious convolutions, Viola ends up unexpectedly onstage to play the perfect Juliet, and we get to see them performing the play together. Fiennes and Paltrow create a lovely version of Romeo and Juliet (along with Ben Affleck as Mercutio). It is so fun to watch it all come together.

There are so many wonderful convolutions to the plot. It truly is Shakespeare-inspired. I love the play within the play aspect. Also, the implications of the cross-dressing are really hilarious, especially at the end, when the Queen (Judi Dench) intervenes on behalf of Viola who played Juliet while pretending to be the actor Thomas Kent. The Wikipedia article describes the Shakespearean references in more detail.

I’m not the only one who loves this film. It won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Paltrow), and Best Supporting Actress (Dench). I feel like I am barely doing it justice here. It’s a wonderful and very Shakespearean film. Take a look at Roger Ebert’s review—he loved it, too!

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The Last Picture Show

March 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , )

I watched the Renato Castellani 1954 version of Romeo and Juliet last night. Thanks to blog reader Tue for recommending this one to me. It was a nice way for me to wrap up my R&J viewing. I liked it very much. My favorite remains the 1968 Zeffirelli version, but I enjoyed this one, as well. It is not currently available from Netflix, but Amazon offers a one-week instant rental for $2.99.

I started my blog by viewing the Zeffirelli version before I read the text of the play, so if I watched it again now, I might notice different things about characters or plot variations or scenes left out and that kind of thing that I’m attuned to now. I don’t plan to watch it again for now, but welcome any conversation about that if readers want to bring anything up.

So, let’s talk about the 1954 version. It’s lovely. It was filmed in Italy and the towns are a wonderful backdrop for the action. I enjoyed the scenery a lot. It’s filmed in Technicolor and the colors are vivid and striking. I love the costumes. It’s very visually appealing.

Laurence Harvey plays a slightly effeminate Romeo, but he grew on me. He has sort of a swashbuckling, old-fashioned style to his acting. It worked fine for me. I’d read criticisms of Susan Shentall’s Juliet (her one and only performance as a film actress), but I liked her. Yes, she over-emotes sometimes and under-emotes at others, but she’s girlish and naive and lovely. I titled this post The Last Picture Show partly because I saw a strong resemblance between Shentall and the young Cybill Shepherd in that film.

I really enjoyed several of the other characters in this film. Mervyn Johns’ Friar Laurence was the best I’d seen. He portrays the friar as slightly odd and dithering and in his own little dream world of flowers and herbs and potions. This seems very much to me what Shakespeare intended.

Similarly, I loved Flora Robson’s portrayal of Juliet’s Nurse. This nurse is loving and kind to Juliet and runs on at the mouth with hilarity. I enjoyed her.

And my favorite character is Sebastian Cabot’s Capulet. I felt like he really nailed Capulet’s corpulent, self-important, bad-tempered self. I know Cabot from his later years in A Family Affair and maybe celebrity appearances like on the Hollywood Squares, so it was interesting seeing him in a meaty role. His angry scenes with Tybalt at the Capulet feast and later with Juliet when she shows disinterest in Paris are really, really fun to watch.

Did I love everything about this film? No. It takes liberties with Shakespeare’s language and plot. Really, many liberties that seem unnecessary to me. Mercutio is basically a no-show, and hardly discernible from Benvolio. There’s no Queen Mab speech, there’s no marketplace scene with the nurse (a sail! a sail!) and there’s no swordplay. None! There are just sudden stabbings.

I think staying closer to Shakespeare would have improved this version for me, but it’s still a really nice one to watch as my last picture show of Romeo and Juliet. (Last, that is, unless someone brings another must-see version to my attention!)

On to A Midsummer Night’s Dream! The animated version arrives from Netflix today!

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Romeo and Juliet, Abridged… and Animated!

March 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I have a secret. When my son brings me another Scooby story to read at bedtime and I know it would take me 10 or 15 minutes and I don’t want to spend that much time on it… I have a secret method for shortening it. I read the first sentence on every page and then a random sentence here or there. The story goes much faster and the kids hardly ever notice. They’re more interested in looking at the pictures anyway. They still get the gist of the story and everyone’s happy.

The BBC basically did this with their series Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. I’m sure they were a bit more selective and careful about which lines they kept, but they take each play and condense it to a half hour. They use Shakespeare’s language along with a narrator who sets the scene, introduces characters, clarifies action, etc. They’re well done.

I thought the animation was interesting. It’s kind of artsy and some of the characters are a bit odd-looking (for example, the upper part of the nurse’s face is brown, but the lower part is light). But this didn’t detract at all from the film. 

I would not recommend this version of Romeo and Juliet for very young children. My kids were not interested at all. My preschooler left the room immediately. My second grader stayed for about five minutes before saying he was done. The language was the barrier, I think. Note (especially if you show it to small kids) a bit more (animated) nudity during Romeo and Juliet’s night of bliss scene than you might expect in a cartoon.

The disk with Romeo and Juliet also has Othello and The Winter’s Tale. I was talking on the phone when the other two episodes were playing, but all seemed very good. Romeo and Juliet and Othello are cel animation and The Winter’s Tale is stop-action puppetry.

I believe these Animated Tales (there are twelve plays and they are available on Netflix) would be wonderful to use with high school age kids… maybe middle school, too. They would be really good for giving an introduction to a play. I may even watch them first as I move on through the plays. A half hour of easy viewing and you definitely get a solid feel for the plot, in Shakespeare’s words (another secret… I turn on the English subtitles because I get more out of the dialog when I read along).

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Nureyev and Fonteyn

March 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , )

I loved, loved, loved Rudolf Nureyev’s choreography and the entirely spectacular 1995 Paris production of Romeo and Juliet. Loved it so much that I thought the version with Nureyev himself dancing with Margot Fonteyn must be even better. I think I built it up too much in my mind. I like the other version better.

Maybe I’m showing myself for what I am… just a casual viewer, not a ballet aficionado. At all. I don’t know anything about ballet except whether I enjoy it. I’m pretty much the same with wine. Anyway, this version, danced with the Royal Ballet in London in 1966, does not feel nearly as sumptuous and dramatic to me as the 1995 production.

One thing I like about the 1995 version is you get a real feel for the spectacle of it—they show the crowds entering the hall, the orchestra warming up, you get a real feel that this is an event. The 1966 version lacks that aspect completely.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s lovely. The Prokofiev score is the same as in the other version. The sets are nice, many of the costumes are pretty. But it just doesn’t measure up to the other version for me.

The choreography feels sluggish to me compared to the 1995 version. There is much walking around, especially early on. Costumes with long trains don’t lend themselves to a lot of fast dancing, I guess. I just found it slow-going and not as fun to watch.

I was put off right from the start. The dance begins with a scene in the marketplace that reminds me of a square dance. The costumes are odd and the ballerinas have long, loose hair. There are a couple similar scenes later in the production. They always seem out of place to me. There’s also an odd scene of a wedding (not Romeo and Juliet’s wedding!) in the marketplace.

The dancing generally doesn’t seem as good to me. Not to be too brutal, but Fonteyn is in her mid-40s and she doesn’t dance a believable teenage Juliet for me. I’m sure Nureyev’s dancing is spectacular, but for me it didn’t feel as exciting or honest as Manuel Legris’s Romeo in the 1995 version. There seems to be less chemistry (and why the blue eyeshadow on Nureyev?).

I don’t find this Mercutio (David Blair) nearly as endearing and humorous as Lionel Delanoe’s in the 1995 production. This Tybalt (Desmond Doyle) looks devilish to me in his bright red costume.

My kids came in late, but were quite interested in it. They loved the swordplay and were interested in the story line at the end with the sleeping potion and poison and stabbing. They were quite mesmerized, really. All in all, worth a watch, but I like the 1995 ballet version better.

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The Beauty of Ballet

March 17, 2010 at 5:10 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , , , )

When I searched “Romeo and Juliet” on Netflix, I noticed several ballet versions and selected one with choreography by Rudolf Nureyev performed in Paris in 1995. To cut to the chase, I loved it. It’s spectacular. I watched it first on my regular TV and decided I was not doing it justice, so watched most of it again on the big screen behemoth in my basement. It is so lovely.

The title roles are performed by Manuel Legris and Monique Loudières and they are wonderful together. Loudières, although obviously not a teenager, dances with a sweet innocence that makes her Juliet believably girl-like. Legris is her charming Romeo. Lionel Delanoe does a great job as Mercutio—you see every ounce of wit and energy that Shakespeare puts into that character. The nurse is also quite amusing. She is a lusty version, quite a bit younger than what I’ve seen in films. Her costume is striking, with floating scarves tracing her every move.

I’m going to run out of superlatives quickly. Prokofiev’s score is beautiful. The costumes and sets are sumptuous. The dancing wonderful to watch. This video runs 2.5 hours, and unlike the lengthy BBC production, this one had my attention for the entire time.

Of course, it’s a dance. There’s no time to channel surf—the story is told through music and motion, and you have to stay tuned into it to keep up with the action. I wonder if the story would be very hard to follow for people unfamiliar with Romeo and Juliet.

I found it kept pretty true to Shakespeare’s storyline. There are some variations. The ballet begins with foreshadowing a funeral. The savvy Rosaline makes an appearance early in the ballet, and Romeo’s heavy-handed wooing of her gives a good indication of why she scorned his doting.

But other than that, I’d say the narrative follows Shakespeare pretty closely. Of course, everything is adapted to ballet. The violence is easier to watch, I think, since it’s quite stylized.

This makes me think it would be appropriate for children to watch. Obviously, language isn’t a barrier as it might be for kids in a regular version of Romeo and Juliet. My little ones were interested for a few minutes, but then had to move onto homework and other things. I think a mature child, especially one that likes dance, might really enjoy this.

I realize that Shakespeare’s poetic language is his biggest asset, but I believe this ballet shows how the poetry can be successfully translated to dance and music. I enjoyed this video immensely. So much, in fact, that I added a version of Nureyev himself dancing with Margot Fonteyn to my to-watch list. Stay tuned!

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Loose Ends

March 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm (Analysis and Discussion, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m winding down on my thoughts about Romeo and Juliet (for now). I have a couple more film versions in my Netflix queue that I will watch soon, but I think I’ve covered what I want (for now). I think with this blog, as I read through more plays, I may feel the need to revisit plays as I see things in a new context. So, I reserve the right to return to Romeo and Juliet!

And I would love if any readers come back to Romeo and Juliet at any time! Please feel free to rifle through old posts and comment on anything at any time. I’ll be happy for the input and eager to return to this play for more discussion.

Today marks one month since I started posting about Romeo and Juliet on Valentine’s Day. I really have no plan regarding how long I will spend on each play or how many posts I’ll make about each one. It’s kind of random and I have no idea if I’ll spend a month on future plays or want to move on faster (or spend even more time on each!). Stick around with me to see!

Anyhow, as my thoughts wind down on Romeo and Juliet, there are a few things I want to put out there before I move on to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

More on Mercutio
First, I want to thank blog reader Ted. When I commented early on that I thought new readers might want to “yada yada” through Mercutio… he pointed out that he could never ignore Mercutio, who he found a fascinating character. That comment made me re-think Mercutio, and you can see I found quite a few things to post about him the last week or so.

It’s this kind of input that I am so excited to get from this blog. Because if I were just reading on my own, I might really have done more yada-yadaing than I should have. I find reading Mercutio’s parts very challenging. The puns are constant and complex, but I do think he’s a fascinating character if you let him under your skin.

One thing about Mercutio that I find really interesting… he is related to the Prince (and possibly to Paris, who is also related to the Prince). This seems so unnecessary to the plot. Why give him this connection? When I started this blog by watching the Zeffirelli version, I actually thought Mercutio was a Montague—maybe a cousin of Romeo’s; I didn’t give the relationship much thought. But as I read the text, I realized he was the Prince’s kinsman.

Another thing—Mercutio was invited to the Capulet feast! That’s so interesting to me, because doesn’t it seem like he could have easily snuck his buddies in, since he was invited? Yet they’re all worried about how to get in, and he plays right along as if he’s one of the party crashers.

Further on that note, Count Paris seems like such a “catch” for Juliet because he’s an aristocrat. Yet I wonder if Mercutio isn’t just as high in rank and stature. He certainly doesn’t give off any royal airs, does he? He’s one of the guys. Not at all the feeling I get from Paris, although we never see Paris in a casual setting with his buds.

Rosaline was a Capulet!
Rosaline was also on the invitation list to the Capulet feast! See, it’s interesting to me, because Shakespeare never needed to share with us the actual invites to the party—that’s a level of detail that would never be missed in a play. Yet, there’s a whole scene set aside for Romeo to read through the entire list! So, it seems somehow important that we learn that Mercutio is invited and also Rosaline (of course, that gives Romeo the idea to crash the party, but we didn’t need to hear the whole list for that idea to get in his head).

Rosaline is Capulet’s niece, and therefore Juliet’s cousin. I find this detail interesting, because later when Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet, it takes on such weighty meaning to him.

                          Is she a Capulet?
O dear account! my life is my foe’s debt.
(I.5.118-119)

Why is it a big deal? He was already doting on a Capulet (Rosaline) before this and her family connections didn’t seem to concern him a bit!

The Nurse
Lastly, I want to mention a couple things about Juliet’s nurse. She is a really interesting character to me. As I’ve said in earlier posts, she is stupid/savvy. Capulet treats her with great disrespect when he is angry with Juliet.

Nurse 
God in heaven bless her!
You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so.

CAPULET 
And why, my lady wisdom? hold your tongue,
Good prudence; smatter with your gossips, go.

Nurse 
I speak no treason.

CAPULET 
O, God ye god-den.

Nurse 
May not one speak?

CAPULET 
Peace, you mumbling fool!
Utter your gravity o’er a gossip’s bowl;
For here we need it not.
(III.5.169-176)

Wow, what a nice guy! He has such a bad temper and is so rude to the Nurse here. She does not back down. She talks right back! (“May not one speak?”) She holds her own with the Lord and Lady of the manor. I never note subservience in her tone around them. Interesting!

And her love for Juliet is obvious. Juliet, to her ultimate ruin, loves and trusts the Nurse with her whole heart. I mentioned in an earlier post how the Nurse’s switcharoo from singing the praises of Romeo to singing the praises of Paris causes the tragic switcharoo in Juliet that sends her to the Friar and starts in motion the events that lead to the tragic ending.

The nurse is a pivotal character. It’s interesting, because it would be easy to dismiss her as a fool, as Capulet does. You could mistake her for a somewhat small character. She is not. She is central to the plot. She enables Juliet to pursue the relationship with Romeo. She serves as messenger to set up the wedding and doorguard so they can consummate their marriage. Then her switch to Paris pushes Juliet out the door toward her death. The plot revolves around the nurse!

Parallels: Nurse and Friar
So, in addition to holding her own as a character (in every sense of the word!) and being central to the plot, I find interesting parallels between the nurse and two other characters. She serves as friend and trusted confidant to Juliet in the same way the Friar does to Romeo. Both the nurse and the Friar are enablers of the Romeo/Juliet relationship and marriage. Both should know better! These kids are dumb and acting in a hormone-induced haze—if either the Friar or the nurse had put the kibosh on it at any step of the way, things might have ended differently.

Parallels: Nurse and Mercutio
I find parallels between the nurse and Mercutio, as well. Both are windy, tending to get carried away with themselves and run on at the mouth. Both are pretty hilarious and prone to dirty jokes and puns. And each serves as a best friend. We are aware of no friend other than the nurse in Juliet’s life. She appears to exist within the walls of the Capulet house and have little human contact other than her parents and the nurse. Romeo is out and about in the world and has friends, and Mercutio stands out as his closest friend, willing in the end to fight for and die for that friendship.

And that concludes my thoughts (for now) on reading Romeo and Juliet! Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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BBC = Boring, Banal, Choppy

March 13, 2010 at 11:26 am (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , , )

I want to watch all the BBC productions, so I went ahead and watched Romeo and Juliet even though I’d heard it was not that good. It lived up to my expectations. 

On the plus side, the language is Shakespearean. I noticed a few places where they skipped lines, but it seemed essentially to follow the text. I liked this version’s Mercutio (played by Anthony Andrews, who you might recognize from The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour). I also liked this Capulet (Michael Hordern) and the Nurse (Celia Johnson) grew on me.

I watched this movie on my computer with Netflix’s instant play feature, and I have to admit two things. One is that I was constantly watching the ticker click down those two hours and 47 minutes. The ticker moved v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

My other admission—watching this one on the computer was a mistake. There are about a million things on the Internet more interesting than watching this film. For example, I found out that Gnomeo and Juliet is due out next year! Set in the world of warring indoor and outdoor gnomes! Can you believe it?! Well, I found reading that more compelling than watching the BBC production.

A basic problem for me with this version is that I never connected with the title characters. The actors playing Romeo (Patrick Ryecart) and Juliet (Rebecca Saire) just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t believe or care about their love affair. They looked way too May-December for me, and of course, I had ample opportunity to look that up on the Internet while I was watching. Indeed, she was 14 while filming and he was 25. Beyond that, I found her a bit stiff and boring (I guess always comparing her in my mind to Olivia Hussey from the 1968 version).

Patrick Ryecart’s Romeo is bland and blah and beige. He’s actually BEIGE! I was a little fascinated by the monotone effect—his poofy, permed hair, his skin, clothes and bizarrely, his eyes are all shades of tan. And I guess I focused on this because his acting was so banal. He’s totally blank-faced as Mercutio lies bleeding to death in his arms. Blank. Then he freaks out on Tybalt.

Ahh, Tybalt. A revelation there! Tybalt was a Slytherin! Alan Rickman, well-known now as Professor Snape from the Harry Potter movies, plays Tybalt. What great casting for that part!

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