Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
This month's movie always leaves me feeling a little conflicted. It's a Shakespeare comedy that for the most part doesn't seem all that funny. And one of the central characters is a person whose treatment in the play is not something that we are comfortable with here in the 21st Century. (But in the early 1600s, such discrimination and treatment was pretty much the norm, and in more places than Elizabethan England.) And, indeed, when this version of Shakespeare's play was first aired in the United States back around 1980, the Holocaust and Executive Committee of the Committee to Bring Nazi War Criminals to Justice sent a letter to PBS and station WNET, demanding the show be cancelled. WNET also received protest letters from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and B'nai B'rith. The ADL stated that screening the episode would be "providing a forum for a [character] who would have warmed the heart of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher." PBS president Lawrence K. Grossman replied: "the healthy way to deal with such sensitivities is to air the concerns and criticism, not to bury or ban them." So while I have mixed feelings about this particular play, I try to face the reasons why it makes me uncomfortable, and at the same time try to avoid imposing my own morality on a 400-year-old work done in a different age. And so it is that this month, Da'ud Bob reviews for you BBC's 1980 production of The Merchant of Venice.
Starring John Franklyn-Robbins as Antonio (the "Merchant" in the title), John Rhys-Davies as Salerio, Alan David as Solanio, John (DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders) Nettles as Bassanio, Richard Morant as Lorenzo, Kenneth Cranham as Gratiano, Gemma Jones as Portia, Susan Jameson as Nerissa, Warren Mitchell as Shylock, Enn Reitel as Launcelot Gobbo, and Leslee Udwin as Jessica, the basic story can be summed up as: A rich merchant of Venice, Antonio, is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will: only the man that picks the correct casket out of three (silver, gold, and lead) can marry her. Bassanio, unfortunately, is strapped for cash to go woo her and Antonio wants to help, so Antonio borrows the money from Shylock, a Jewish money-lender. But Shylock, nursing a grudge against Antonio's insults to him, makes some unusual terms for the loan. When Antonio's business fails, those terms threaten his life, and it's up to Bassanio and Portia to save him.
Good points: Some of the costumes. The smelly basket. (No, really!) Period-style glasses. Real quill pen, not a feather pretending to be a quill pen. The well-known (so much so that it's almost a cliché now) line, "All that glistens is not gold."
Bad points: Shylock is played like a caricature. The Prince of Morocco's and his retinue's costumes. (Especially the one with the hubcap breastplate.) Gratiano's fur-trimmed coat. The Prince of Aragon's heavy accent. (Again, caricature!) Jessica's nightdress. Like most Shakespeare comedies, no one ever seems to see through the cross-dressing. I find this a bit unrealistic, but maybe that's just me. I've never particularly liked the Let's Make A Deal situation with the three caskets where one leads to marriage with Portia.
Zero breasts. No blood. Zero bodies. Ring fu. Knife fu. Gratuitous dwarf. Gratuitous cross-dressing. Every time I see this play and it comes to the part where Bassanio is asking to borrow money from Antonio so he can go woo Portia, I want to quote from another of Shakespeare's characters in another play, Polonius in Hamlet: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." Academy Award nomination to Warren Mitchell as Shylock for "If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" A 37 on the Vomit Meter. Two stars. Da'ud Bob says, "Check it out!"
Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!
"Coming soon" to Amazon Prime
|BBC Two has done a new version of Shakespeare's King Lear, starring
Anthony Hopkins in the title role, with Emma Thompson, Florence Pugh, and
Emily Watson as his three daughters, Andrew (Moriarty in the Benedict
Cumberbatch Sherlock) as Edgar, and a host of others.
I'm still trying to find a way to actually own this on DVD so I can add it to my Shakespeare ShelfTM. No luck so far
November 2, 2018 in limited release
|"Lee Chung is a Prince of Joseon (Chosan, or Korea), but he has been taken
hostage to the Qing Dynasty. He enjoys boozing, womanizing and gambling.
He is also an excellent swordsman. His older brother Lee Young will succeed
to the throne and brings Lee Chung to Joseon. He returns after more than 10
years. Soon, Lee Chung faces monsters that run rampant in the night."
Trailer on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MODgVTyihbU
Opens November 21, 2018 (delayed from September)
|"Robin of Loxley, a war-hardened Crusader, and his Moorish commander
mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling
action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight
choreography, and a timeless romance." Starring Taron Egerton in the title
role, with Jamie Dornan, Paul Anderson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Foxx as
Little John, Eve Hewson, and Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.
Yet another movie that I don't think needed to be remade (again and again and again!).
|Mary Queen of Scots
December 7, 2018 in limited release
|Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England,
finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution.
Starring Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, Saoirse Ronan in the title role, and
David Tennant (as John Knox).
Oh, look! Another remake! And one that really, really messes up the actual history (at least, based on the trailer which is now available on-line at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnqjSgMU36U). I mean, let's get real: Elizabeth and Mary never had a friendship; they never even met face-to-face.
|The Kid Who Would Be King
Now March 1, 2019 (that's at least two delays that I know of)
|"A band of kids embark on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace." Starring Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart as Merlin, Tom Taylor.|
|The Name of the Rose
2019 (in Italy)
|"A monk investigates a series of mysterious deaths at an abbey. Television
adaptation (eight episodes) of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose."
John Turturro in the Sean Connery role, Michael Emerson, Rupert Everett,
Damian Hardung, Claudio Bigagli.
Really? Yet another remake? Can no one write any original scripts anymore?
No official website yet.
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