Da'ud Bob's Movie Review
January 2021

Okay, now, I have to admit that this movie is not the one I was planning on reviewing this month. That movie was one I had run across (and bought) entitled The Banquet, and was a Chinese movie based on the Shakespeare play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. It wasn’t until after I had purchased the DVD and watched the movie that I noticed that I had already purchased, and reviewed, it for you back in 2009. The reason I hadn’t caught that before? Back in 2006 (when the movie was released) and in 2009 (when I bought and reviewed it), the title was Legend of the Black Scorpion. Sometime in the intervening 11 years, they changed the title back to the English translation of the original Chinese title, Ye Yan, or, The Banquet. (Under either title, it’s a movie worth watching. At the time, I gave it Three Stars, and still do.) Anyway, that left me without a movie for this month. So I searched around, and found a recent (2019) production of an opera written in five acts in 1868 by the French composer Ambroise Thomas, with a libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, based on a French adaptation by Alexandre Dumas, père, and Paul Meurice, of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. And so it is that this month, you’re getting a review of a different adaptation of a Shakespeare play, just not the one that I had originally intended, as we review for you the filmed version of the staged opera, Hamlet.

Starring Stéphane Degout in the title role, Sabine Devieilhe as Ophélie, Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo as  Gertrude, Laurent Alvaro as Claudius, Julien Behr as Laërte, Jérôme Varnier as the Ghost of Old Hamlet, Yoann Dubruque as Horatio, and Kevin Amiel as Marcellus, and backed by the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, this version of Shakespeare’s tragedy is almost, but not quite, the story you remember and have seen in any number of movie iterations. (My current collection includes eight different versions of the play (from 1948-1989) plus the versions based on the play, like this opera, a modern Indian version (Haider), and, of course, The Banquet/Legend of the Black Scorpion.) They took some liberties with the original story to give it a slightly happier, and certainly less deadly, ending, where only Claudius dies at the end of the play (Ophélie dies, per usual, in Act IV.)

Good points: The music. The hand-held camera shots projected onto a screen above the stage. As always, the play-within-a-play. The closing credits for the play-within-a-play. Hamlet’s soliloquy was very well done. The staging and effects. The opera deepens the relationship between Hamlet and Ophélie.

Bad points: Ophélie getting changed out of her pants suit and into a dress on stage. (Well, the whole production has a very Gallic slant to it.) Laërte, sent to Norway by Claudius, leaves Ophélie in Hamlet’s care; she’s not his iPad, or his stamp collection, or some other piece of property, to be handed off that way. Both Gertrude and Polonius (who has a much smaller role than in the play) are complicit with Claudius in the old King’s death. Why do sopranos in operas always take so long to die? (See, e.g., Carmen.) By the time Ophélie drowns, we’re pretty much ready to see her go. I’m not sure that undertakers rather than gravediggers is an improvement. No Yorick. A lot of Act II would be summed up here in Lonestarorra as: “That boy ain’t right. His girl is worried about him, and his Ma is worried about him.”

Zero breasts. ½ gallon of blood. 2 dead bodies, plus one in the play-within-a-play and one ghost). Strangulation fu. Fisticuffs. Poison fu (in the play-within-a-play). Carpet rolls. Carpet unrolls. Hamlet rolls. Gratuitous drinking. (As I said, it’s Gallic.) Gratuitous singing about drinking. (“A plague on sadness! Let’s get drunk!”) Gratuitous saxophone solo. Gratuitous slo-mo crashing waves.  A 65 on the Vomit Meter. 2 Stars. Da’ud Bob says, “It’s not quite the Hamlet I’m used to, but it is an interesting French take on the play. Check it out!”


Upcoming movies and miniseries to watch for!

Raya and the Last Dragon
March 5, 2021
In this animated movie, in a realm known as Lumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.  Voices by Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina.
The Green Knight
July 30, 2021
A fantasy re-telling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. Starring  Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury.
The Last Duel
Now to be released October 15, 2021 (Covid has played havoc with release dates!)
Set in 14th century France, King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel. Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer.

Dungeons and Dragons
Now May 27, 2022 (Covid continues to play havoc with release dates!)
Plot undisclosed at this time, but like earlier iterations, it is based on the tabletop role-playing game. Directed John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, starring (it is rumored) Chris Pine.

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