Thursday, 16 February 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Shakespeare adapatations



When Thursday dawns it means that a new Thursday Movie picks is due, this week is adaptations of the works of some famous English playwright named William Shakespeare.


In Britain, Shakespeare is always on the national curriculum, it’s quite easy to see why because his writing has been influential for almost 500 years.  The majority of the teenagers don’t enjoy reading Shakespeare so much so that Edmund Blackadder went back in time and punched William Shakespeare in the face saying “that was for every schoolboy and schoolgirl for the next 400 years.”

In addition to getting punched, Shakespeare also gets kicked for “Ken Branagh four-hour uncut version of Hamlet”. Shakespeare didn’t know who Ken Branagh was so you do begin to question Branagh‘s devotion to the playwright. Anywho, in addition to Hamlet, Branagh also made Henry V (both 1940s films starred Laurence Olivier who Branagh played in My Week With Marilyn). I actually prefer Branagh’s version over the Olivier version.

One of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays is Coriolanus, a play which Ralph Fiennes took on in his directorial debut back in 2011. Like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Coriolanus retains Shakespeare’s original ye olde English dialogue but uses a modern setting for its film. It’s an appropriate play for tumultuous times.

Akira Kurosawa was a fan of Shakespeare; his 1957 film Throne of Blood was partly based on The Scottish Play whilst his 1985 film was in part inspired by King Lear. Even at the end of his career Kurosawa was able to produce great films (I even like Rhapsody in August and don’t buy into the film’s critics who say that it’s demanding an American apology for the atomic bombings of two Japanese cities) and Ran is among the best of the director’s works. 

21 comments:

  1. Actually, I know and love Coriolanus but I've never seen the film you picked. I'll give it a try.

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    1. For sure. Not many adapations around for Coriolanus.

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  2. I haven't seen your picks. Personally, I always liked reading Shakespeare's sonnets. The only play I ever took issue with was Romeo and Juliet.

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    1. I took an issue with a few of his plays when I was younger. Haha.

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  3. Fiennes's Coriolanus is SO GOOD. Vanessa Redgrave - GAH!

    I saw the restoration of Ran when it was touring rep houses and oh my Lord is it gorgeous.

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    1. I do want to see Ran on a proper big screen.

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  4. Myerla, I appreciated learning of these films but to be honest I probably won't see any of them. This just isn't for me. Please, no off with the head or anything. I really need it because...I look better with my head on my shoulders. :) Thanks for stopping in earlier!

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    1. Fair enough. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. I haven't seen any of these but I like Kenneth Branagh and I love Ralph Fiennes so they sound quite good. I have to see Ran as well since there is nothing but great things about it

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    1. Yeah. I do like Ken Branagh. His Shakespeare adpations are all pretty good.

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  6. I also picked Coriolanus! Ever heard about the play, but never actually read or seen any performance of it until I watched Coriolanus and instantly liked it. I think some Kurosawa's works are influenced by Shakespeare right?

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    1. Yep. Both Ran and Throne of Blood are inpsired by his works.

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  7. Interesting picks

    One film adaptation I found particularly enjoyable (apologies for the American accents) was Joss Whedon’s 2012 “Much Ado about Nothing.” Just a way of winding down from the $200,000,000 budget Avengers (2012) that he directed, he and his friends shot “Much Ado about Nothing” in 12 days at home with handheld B&W cameras. The fully modern setting works perfectly if one just accepts the visuals that Don Pedro’s return from the war is a mafia war; if anything, the contrast of setting and dialogue better highlights how the relations of the sexes have changed and how they haven’t. The cast plainly had a lot of fun with it. Besides, for Whedon fans it’s entertaining to watch cast-members of “Dollhouse,” “Firefly,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” recite Shakespeare. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAMsDP_DMHE

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    1. I've heard of Whedon's Much Ado about nothing. It was actually picked this week by another blogger.

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  8. The Olivier Henry V is a good one but I too prefer Branagh's take. Coriolanus was challenging and I can't say I liked it over much outside of Vanessa Redgrave but it was nice to see one of Shakespeare's lesser known works tackled. I shamefacedly have to admit that I've never seen a single one of Kurosawa's films! Bad me, must correct.

    There's such a depth and breath of films to choose from this week it was fun poking around for some unusual ones though the Branagh Hamlet was the first to occur to me.

    Hamlet (1996)-Kenneth Branagh adapted, directed and stars as the tortured Dane supported by a cast that is drawn from the cream of the British acting world with a few choice American stars pulled in for good measure. What makes this version stand out from the myriad others is Branagh’s decision to pull the play out of the dingy and poorly lit 14th century to the lush baroque 19th, resulting in deserved nominations for Art & Costume design, making it a far more vivid experience. That’s a great help since he has also chosen to present the entirety of the play’s nearly four hour run time. In a cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Robin Williams, Gerard Depardieu and Judi Dench among so many others it’s difficult to choose any MVP’s aside from Branagh but Kate Winslet as Ophelia and Rufus Sewell as Fortinbras, the crown prince of Norway are memorable. It’s a challenging view but worthwhile.

    Joe MacBeth (1955)-Updating the Scottish play to the criminal underworld of 1930’s America this violent take on the tale (it begins with the title character blowing away a crime boss then going directly to his own wedding) is an inventive twist on the material. Excellent work by Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman as the murderous mobster and his rapacious Lady M hold you rapt as the homicidal pair climb the ladder of success over an ever increasing pile of bodies.

    Kiss Me Kate (1953)-The Taming of the Shrew moved into the world of the modern theatre and musicalized by Cole Porter. Famous stage star Fred Graham (Howard Keel) tries to dissuade his equally famous ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) to postpone her upcoming marriage so she can co-star with him in a musical updating of The Taming of the Shrew. She agrees reluctantly since their relationship post-divorce is as combative as their married life so it’s not smooth going. Add in several flies in the ointment including second lead Lois Lane(!) (Ann Miller) and some mobsters who are mistakenly putting the squeeze on Frank for a debt Lois’s boyfriend owes and it’s a wacky time backstage. Onstage though there are some amazing dance numbers performed by four of the best dancers of the 50’s (Miller, Carol Haney, Bob Fosse and Bobby Van) and great music sung by all including “It’s Too Darn Hot!” and “From This Moment On”. One of the great musicals, originally shown in 3-D.

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    1. Thanks for calling it the Scottish Play. Bad luck to give it its proper title.

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  9. I haven't seen any of them.

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    1. Should fix that, especially see Ran.

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  10. I'm another who hasn't seen any of these. I need to get on Throne of Blood, quick.

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    1. It's Ran not Throne of Blood but both do work here.

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  11. Coriolanus is one I wasn't sure to see or not. I'm not familiar with the play and the story was about war so turned me off BUT the cast and reason behind Ralph Fiennes picking made me think twice.

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