AFI Fest 2011: Coriolanus

Sometimes I think there are reasons why some Shakespeare plays remain largely unknown among his vast repertoire – I have never read Coriolanus or seen it performed, but assuming this is a fairly faithful adaptation in terms of the text itself, it’s just…not that interesting. Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes, who also directs) is a great military leader in Rome (here modernized in everything but language, and acting styles to some degree) whose contempt for anyone not born patrician makes him no friend of the commoners rioting over their lack of food. After a successful war against the invading Volscian army, he’s granted the honorific “Coriolanus” and encouraged to run for the consul, which he does, even briefly gaining the support of the commoners before a pair of conniving tribunes double-cross him and, with the support of the crowd, call for his banishment. He joins the Volsci, becoming the right-hand man of his former blood enemy Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to attack Rome, until his wife and mother (Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave) beg him to stop.

All of the twists and turns in the plot seem to come out of nowhere, with people changing sides or points of view at the drop of a hat. The script is probably abbreviated from Shakespeare’s play (the film runs just over two hours, about an hour less than most Shakespeare done in full), which might explain some of the disjointedness, but unfortunately it also feels longer than it is. It’s hard to relate to Coriolanus, who has a highly developed sense of honor but is also a total dick a good portion of the time – his shifts from speechifying the commoners to get their support to denouncing them as unworthy to vote are practically bipolar, and so is the crowd’s instant reversals from distrust to support to anger. These may all be problems inherent to the source material, but the overwrought and unintentionally comical acting styles in this section don’t do anything to help it.

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Review: The Tempest


I supposed my reaction to Julie Taymor’s photographically bold, yet cinematicly flat rendition of William Shakespeare’s play could be summed up by comparing the performance of Alan Cumming from her previous film Titus to the one he yields here. In Titus, he is a campy-over-the-top force of nature, a pure delight of showmanship. In The Tempest, he is yawning his way through the inevitable march across the Hawaiian voclanic badlands with an equally subdued Chris Cooper and David Strathairn. Maybe the gory Grand Guignol of Titus was a more suitable fit than the more introspective, meta-ish nature of The Tempest for her particular sort-of-a-stage-production-sort-of-a-film style. Outside of the farcical comedic elements, Alfred Molina is at his bawdy best here, with Russell Brand providing somewhat consistent support, which seem to capture the best elements of Shakespeare’s ability to play to the back of the room, The Tempest merely makes me want to go back and revisit Peter Greenaway’s take on the Bard with Prospero’s Books, or for that matter, just re-watch Tarsem’s The Fall.
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Clips and Images for Taymor’s “The Tempest”

Which is really all I need to know I’m seeing this asap. Kind of a lover her or hate her director it seems, I personally love the visual flair and flavor of Taymor’s style. The only other director that is comparable in the original and fantastical look of their films is probably Tarsem.

I personally can’t wait for this adaptation. Taymor seems to like her Shakespeare and with Mirren, Whishaw, Cumming, Molina, Cooper and Strathairn, how can anyone not? Definitely in my most anticipated list of movies for December.

Collider was kind enough to let me steal all of their images and mash all of the clips into one long streaming experience of rad.

clip and more stills below the seats…
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The Movie Club Podcast Episode #12: My Own Private Idaho & 10 Things I Hate About You


It has been more than the usual span of time, but several of the regulars managed to get together and record the latest edition of Movie Club Podcast last week. Episode #12 has a smaller, more intimate 4 person panel including Sean from Filmjunk, along with Andrew, Marina and Kurt from Row Three. We talked about two loose adaptations of Shakespeare from the 1990s, both of which featured potentially house-hold name actors that went on to drug overdoes in their youth. 10 Things I Hate About You and Gus Van Sant‘s My Own Private Idaho provoked somewhat similar reactions, yet we turn over the details of those opinions and facts in a variety of ways.

(Note comments are closed on this post, please post comments and discussion over at The Movie Club Podcast website). And vote for episode #14 using the side poll.

And warm up your Xenomorph and break out your DVD box sets, for in April with episode #13 we are tackling the entire ALIEN QUADRILOGY. Different versions, director’s cuts, and all.

Movie Club Podcast

Meirelles’ Next is Shakespeare

Fernando MeirellesMost of us have yet to see Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness, though that hasn’t stopped us from discussing the film at length, and now it looks like the Brazilian director is trading in one writer for another.

Meirelles’ next project will be a film based on a Brazilian adaptation of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” by Jorge Furtado, who is also writing the script. The story takes place in New York and London and follows a Brazilian boy who gets a scholarship to study Shakespeare abroad and during his foreign stint, he falls in love with an Arabian student.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is not my favourite of Shakespeare’s works, I’m actually not a huge fan of the Bard’s comedies, but the story seems to be only vaguely tied to the original and if one really breaks things down, it could be argued that every story is a derivative of Shakespeare. The dude was that prolific.

The material is a little different from what we’re using to seeing from Meirelles but the director has been quoted as saying that he wanted to work with some lighter fare and this seems to be the answer. Production on the film isn’t scheduled to start until next year so I expect we may get to see it late 2009 or early 2010.