Archives for posts with tag: Shakespeare

Though the exact meaning of some of these terms is beyond our modern day grasp, this Shakespeare Insult Kit is amusing anyway. Maybe it’s a good thing a lot of it is so obscure. What could be better than a well placed, well deserved insult?  One that leaves the recipient certain he’s been insulted, just not quite to what extent!

This article is the most comprehensive I’ve seen about one of my favorite actors, Ben Whishaw. His place in global pop culture is firmly set with another turn as Q in the upcoming Bond outing, Spectre, but here people who only know him as Q can learn about the many roles he’s seemingly effortlessly made his own. There are bits about the private person Whishaw prefers to be as well. Every new piece of the intriguing puzzle that is perhaps the finest actor of his generation makes him more accessible, and ever more admirable.

In my movie watching life this happens sometimes. I get one because of who’s in it, then they’re eclipsed by someone else. It’s hard to eclipse Vanessa Redgrave, but Peter O’Toole certainly did it in Venus.

I had tried to watch it before, but was so not in the mood to watch Peter O’Toole get a prostate exam. Time passed. My mood against that kind of thing didn’t change. That’s what the remote is for. I fast forwarded through that thankfully brief scene the second time around and watched the rest without incident.

Well, okay, I thought the euphemistically termed language was a bit over the top. Some of the stuff uttered by the geriatric set in the cast seemed strategically placed for shock value. I’m tempted to say the same about the sexuality between O’Toole’s Maurice and his Venus, but it was actually pretty subtle. Which left plenty of room for the charming, whimsical, even romantic, elements to creep up on me.

Maurice is an elderly actor, riddled with failing health, and exercising the remnants of a chivalrous nature and romantic soul. His best friend’s young great niece enters his life and brings him a last hurrah that affords adventure, nostalgia, and companionship tinged with something more.

Peter O’Toole shines as Maurice.
Forlorn, wistful, bold to the point of borderline lasciviousness, he navigates his elderly life as best he can, then better than he might have imagined possible. He calls his young friend Venus, as he comes to appreciate her rough edges, even as he smoothes them. The highlights of the entire movie come for me when he recites Shakespeare extensively. Here is a chance to see the great Peter O’Toole as few of us have. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful actor he was, as well as what a loss his talent now is to the world.

Vanessa Redgrave is not in the movie much, but she makes the most of her brief scenes. She plays Maurice’s wife. They are no longer together, but obviously care deeply for each other. Her character is in bad health and looks it. Part of what I love about Vanessa Redgrave’s skilled acting is her fearlessness and lack of vanity. Both are on display in Venus, and she shines any time she’s onscreen.

Venus is a bit unusual, with the central couple’s disparate ages and unlikely friendship that takes on a life of its own. It’s filled with eccentricities and wry humor, overlaid with a bittersweet knowledge that life is too short for regrets and excuses to not live it to its fullest.

Venus Trailer

It’s such a pleasure to be able to see performances from plays staged at the Old Vic. All the more so when it’s a chance to watch a young Ben Whishaw portraying Hamlet. This is his raw and emotional “Too Solid Flesh.” performance. Moving and painful to watch, this brief scene so clearly shows what an incredible talent he was unleashing on the world. He continues to do so in numerous movies that showcase his abilities which know no bounds.


Ben Whishaw performing “To be or not to be…” from Hamlet

This article made me go hmm. I was expecting antiquated words, not things we say in everyday life. Most of us who love the work of Shakespeare can only dream of following in his footsteps in any way, yet we actually use his own words without realizing it…until now. I love the idea that my fiction and screenwriting endeavors include words originating with the Bard himself. I also love the way things a writer did as part of his work found a vital place in the legacy and heritage of the English language. We can’t all be Shakespeare, but like him we may be doing things right now that will become a thread in the great tapestry of language…even history. The very idea could carry an overwhelming sense of responsibility, but fortunately knowledge of such feats comes long after those responsible have turned to dust.

After seeing a few bits of entertainment news covering Ralph Fiennes’ modernized adaptation of the Shakespeare play Coriolanus, I really wanted it for my Vanessa Redgrave movie collection. I was afraid it would be a difficult find, but recently snagged the only copy for sale in the only video store still around.

I sat down to watch it, and two hours later I’d been sucked in and held captive. It’s not really my kind of movie in a way and without it being Shakespeare and starring Vanessa Redgrave I wouldn’t have liked it. Fighting brutal, house to house warfare vicariously is not on my list of favorite passtimes. Oddly, it was Ralph Fiennes who pulled me in. Between Goethe and Voldemort, I sometimes forget what a deeply talented actor he is. His Coriolanus is heroic at times and also deeply flawed. His anger and arrogance coupled with his life under the crippling manipulation of his mother leave him nothing to be but explosively incapable of humility. She eventually manipulates him right into tragedy.

I’ve seen a lot of her movies, and this may be her finest performance yet. Power mad manipulative determination clothed in a mother’s deceptively soft words and gentle touch. Her expressions toward the end are so raw and ugly, yet beautiful in a way because of her ageless features and unlimited talent, that you feel pain and fear, and also a measure of compassion. Add the beauty of Shakespeare’s words, and the whole thing is almost literally mesmerizing.

As much as I love history, I really don’t enjoy reading about it in verse. Watching is another thing entirely, especially with actors whose work I really love. I think the way so many of the plays are set in quasi modern times for movies adds so much to the more traditional productions. It’s all there, but the different backdrop juxtaposed with the original verse is like experiencing it in sensory 3D. Coriolanus opened with the words A Place That Calls Itself Rome, and its Rome is dark and gritty. Dystopian, even. But there are Mercedes, odd looking tanks, and the costumes are contemporary, with quasi military uniforms for the soldiers just different enough to be different. Vanessa Redgrave wears a very utilitarian military uniform at ceremonial times. Stark and somehow adding to her gentle ruthlessness.

There is a scene where she repeatedly falls to her knees and rises in a sort of defiant supplication that elicits a push/pull of compassion and near revulsion, because of the inevitability of the outcome of her careful actions. Her son the battlescarred warrior, betrayed from every corner, is helpless in the hold of the gaze that pleads and demands simultaneously, as throughout his entire life. It is one of those film moments that as I watch it, I know it won’t be easily forgotten.

That can be said of the entirety of Coriolanus. It is a horrible, ugly, dark and brutal story, with a mirror reflection of beauty and grace in the contrast of Shakespeare’s glorious words and Vanessa Redgrave’s stunning performance. This is not a movie to be walked away from unthinking and unmoved.

Coriolanus trailer