Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Life upon the wicked stage . . .

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was one of those polarising movies back in 1998/1999 - did you prefer it or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN ? (just like in 1994 were you a PULP FICTION or FORREST GUMP kind of person? - It was definitely PULP for me, I have never wanted to see GUMP!). While I enjoyed SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE at the time, it was a great evening at the cinema, I have hardly thought about it since, and now that we have Shakespeare debunked in ANONYMOUS, a television showing of SIL made me relish it all over again.

A friend of mine, Leon, over at IMDB puts it perfectly in his review:

Given the little information available on Shakespeare the Man a movie, either full of gravitas or, as here, a tongue-in-cheek entry, was a brilliant idea waiting to happen and the only mystery is what took so long. The two writers have contrived to cater for just about everyone from the Shakespeare scholar to those with a reasonably nodding acquaintance - i.e. someone who can name say ten of the plays off the top of their head and are aware of Marlowe as the author of The Jew Of Malta, Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus but wouldn't necessarily associate 'Kit' with CM - to those who wouldn't know Shakespeare from Pete Doherty but have a thing about Gwynneth Paltrow, Joe Fiennes or both and provided humor for all from the 'in' jokes such as the bloodthirsty young boy who identifies himself as John Webster, to the conceit of Shakespeare seeing a shrink to say nothing of the Victor Victoria spin on girls playing boys playing girls and the wry twist on Romeo and Juliet. This movie has just about everything, spectacle, social history, satire, romance, glamor and top quality thesping all round. Definitely one to own on DVD and replay annually.

The cast certainly dazzles: Joseph Fiennes is ideal as is Gwynneth - will they ever be as iconic again? - and they are surrounded by Colin Firth amusing as the obnoxious beau, Judi Dench makes an unforgettable Elizabeth I in her few minutes, then there is Simon Callow, Anthony Sher, Tom Wilkinson, Geoffrey Rush, Imelda Staunton perfect as usual, Rupert Everett, Ben Affleck, Jim Carter, Martin Clunes and the rest. [Fiennes was also in Tudorbethan mode the same year as the Earl of Leicester to Cate Blanchett's Virgin Queen in ELIZABETH]. Tom Stoppard's script amuses too as writer and actor Shakespeare strugges with his new play "Romeo and Ethel the pirate's daughter" and then he spies the lady Viola who loves the theatre but women cannot appear on stage, and there is that arranged marriage ... It ends on a satisfying note though with Will getting his inspiration, Viola going to the New World and the Queen demanding "a comedy next time for Twelfth Night".

At the time it was considered by some with disdain as the perfect Miramax/Harvey Weinstein production designed and marketed to win all those awards, but here is one instance when they were deserved. Costumes, scenery, lighting, and sound - all the technical and design elements are incredibly well researched and well executed as love, life and the theatre are conjured up in the Elizabethan era. I never wanted to see director John Madden's follow-up CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN which by all accounts was a filleted version of a book I loved, rendering it just a Greek travelogue with some very questionable casting ...

My friend Daryl adds that SAVING PRIVATE RYAN seemed too self-important at the time when it was really an updated version of those World War II war movies like THE STORY OF G.I JOE, whereas audiences actually enjoyed the verbal wit, romance, comedy and great period detail of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.

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