Wednesday, July 01, 2009



A Celebration of Shakespearean Cinema from Around the Globe

Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio
Romeo + Juliet
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, USA, 1996; 120m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Kobal Collection

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey
Romeo and Juliet
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, UK/Italy, 1968; 138m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Kobal Collection

Directed by Orson Welles, USA, 1948; 108m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Kobal Collection

Toshirô Mifune and Isuzu Yamada
Throne of Blood
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1957; 110m
Photo Credit: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Kobal Collection

The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) will showcase a summertime selection of films based on the works of William Shakespeare with The Bard Goes Global: Shakespeare on the International Screen, a 12 day, 18 film series beginning on Wednesday, July 15 through Sunday, July 26. Director Julie Taymor will appear in person at a screening of Titus on Thursday, July 23.

18 Films 10 Countries 12 Days (July 15-26)

Romeo & Juliet (2 versions)
Hamlet (3 versions)
Macbeth (4 versions)
Antony & Cleopatra
Henry V
King Lear
Richard III
Midsummer Night's Dream
Merchant Of Venice
The Tempest
(Director Julie Taymor to Appear in Person)

Comments from FSLC:

"For a medium that spent many of its early years trying to distinguish itself from theater, cinema has often gravitated toward the challenges offered by Shakespeare. How much should a filmmaker refer to its theatrical origins? Do you embrace the opportunities cinema engenders to open up the play or guard against them? Should Shakespeare's historical settings be maintained or is the essence of his greatness its timelessness? And what should be done about Shakespeare's language? Despite (or perhaps, because of) these considerations, screen adaptations of the Bard's works continue apace; thirteen Shakespeare-based films are reportedly in production.

"To help prepare for this new Bardic wave, The Film Society offers the works of William Shakespeare through films from around the world, ranging from a Mumbai gangster-style Macbeth (Maqbool) to three renditions of Hamlet, two of which re-imagine the tragedy of the Prince of Demark as a tale of corporate corruption. Along the way, celebrated films by Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Akira Kurosawa, Aki Kaurismäki, Derek Jarman, Grigori Kozintsev, Roman Polanski, Julie Taymor, Baz Luhrmann, and many more, can be rediscovered.

The Bard Goes Global opens on July 15 with one of two interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. Franco Zeffirelli's cinematic 1968 version (also showing on Thu Jul 16 & Sun Jul 19) was described by Roger Ebert as "the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made", earning the film two Oscars, including one for Best Cinematography. The director's wildly popular adaptation of Shakespeare's most ubiquitous work very much caught the spirit of the moment: shrewdly casting beautiful teenage unknowns Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, he emphasized the glory of young love when generational conflict was reaching a crescendo. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 interpretation, Romeo + Juliet (Wed Jul 22 & Sat Jul 25), transports the star-crossed lovers, played by a 22 year-old Leonardo DiCaprio and a teenage Claire Danes, to "Verona Beach," liberally peppering the original Elizabethan dialogue with modern-day accents.

In addition to two renderings of Romeo and Juliet are four very unique adaptations of Macbeth: Orson Welles' 1948 director's cut (Sat Jul 18), painstakingly restored by the UCLA Film & TV Archive (and out of print on DVD); Kurosawa's 1957 masterwork, taking place in medieval Japan, Throne of Blood (Wed Jul 15 & Sun Jul 19), praised by critic Harold Bloom as "the most successful film version of Macbeth"; Vishal Bhardwaj's imaginative 2003 Mumbai gangster rendition, Maqbool (Fri Jul 24 & Sun Jul 26) starring Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, The Darjeeling Limited, The Namesake); and Polanski's 1971 collaboration with influential critic Kenneth Tynan (Tue Jul 21, Wed Jul 22 & Sun Jul 26).

Also included are three versions of Hamlet. Svend Gade and Heinz Schall's restored Danish silent from 1920 (Sat Jul 25)which premiered at the 2007 New York Film Festival with original polychrome tints intact features live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin. This unique and madcap take on the story of the Prince of Denmark stars Danish diva Asta Nielsen playing the title role; Hamlet was born a princess and her gender was kept hidden. Finally, on Thursday, July 16 and Sunday, July 19 will be Michael Almereyda's 2000 edition starring Ethan Hawke & Bill Murray and on Thursday, July 23, Aki Kaurismäki's 1987 deadpan noir comedy Hamlet Goes Business (also showing on Fri Jul 24 & Sun Jul 26).

Other highlights include directorial debuts from Charlton Heston with Antony and Cleopatra (Sat Jul 18 & Mon Jul 20), Al Pacino in Looking for Richard (Wed Jul 22 & Sat Jul 25) and Laurence Olivier with his 1944 blockbuster Henry V (Wed Jul 15). In the biggest budgeted British film of the time, Olivier creates one of the most beloved Shakespeare adaptations at the movies, earning him a special "Honorary Oscar".

Film Descriptions

The Angelic Conversation
Derek Jarman, UK, 1985; 81m
Described by the director as "a dream world, a world of magic and ritual, yet there are images there of the burning cars and radar systems, which remind you there is a price to be paid in order to gain this dream in the face of a world of violence," this powerful examination of love and desire balances 14 Shakespearean sonnets (read by Judi Dench) with often astonishing tableaux that evoke everything from classic friezes to contemporary performance art. The project was shot on Super-8 then transferred to 35mm, giving each image a haunting effect, like paintings suddenly animating into life.
Sat Jul 18: 9:30pm
Thu Jul 23: 4:30pm

Antony and Cleopatra
Charlton Heston, UK/Spain/Switzerland, 1972; 160m
After years of monumental leading roles, Charlton Heston's first project as a director was this prime example of a character brought down by passion. He glided into the role of the Roman conqueror who Cleopatra (Hildegarde Neil) first abhors, then over whom she gradually and forcefully exerts her power. Rarely seen, this deeply felt rendition of Shakespeare's second Roman tragedy was a true labor of love for Heston, who co-wrote the screenplay, and presents a little-remembered side of the headliner's immense talent.
Sat Jul 18: 1:00pm
Mon Jul 20: 1:00pm

Hamlet (1920)
Svend Gade and Heinz Schall, Germany, 1920; 110m
Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Screened at the 2007 New York Film Festival, this very different approach to Hamlet was long available only in black and white. See it now in its original polychrome tint, thanks to a lovingly restored print courtesy of the German Film Institute. Danish screen diva Asta Nielsen was at the height of her popularity when she took on the title role with a twist: the Prince was born a Princess. For reasons of royal succession, her gender was disguised, a secret known only to Hamlet's parents and nursemaid. The text acquires provocative new resonance in this assertive, ever-powerful silent.
Sat Jul 25: 6:30pm

Hamlet (2000)
Michael Almereyda, USA, 2000; 112m
"Visually both brilliant and dark...This Hamlet may be closer to inspired collage than to poetic drama, but it releases the old fable with its emotional force intact."-David Denby
When the CEO of a major media conglomerate dies, his artsy son Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) discovers that something is rotten in the Denmark Corporation. Imagining, like Kaurismäki, the contemporary world of corporate skullduggery as an equivalent to medieval court intrigues, Almereyda creates a cool, steel-and-glass labyrinth for Shakespeare's most internal character, in which reflections and corporate branding brilliantly serve this executive prince's sense of wounded vanity. With Sam Shepard, Diane Verona, Kyle MacLachlan, Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Bill Murray as Polonius.
Thu Jul 16: 3:45pm and 9:15pm
Sun Jul 19: 4:00pm

Hamlet Goes Business / Hamlet liikemaailmassa
Aki Kaurismäki, Finland, 1987; 86m
Having tackled Dostoevsky with his first feature, Finnish malcontent Aki Kaurismäki confronted Shakespeare with his fourth: the somewhat clueless son of a deceased business magnate is visited by his father's ghost and, finally, given something to do. Lusciously shot in black and white and edited with the crisp pace of a B-movie, Hamlet Goes Business is remarkably faithful to its source-albeit rendered in Kaurismäki's trademark deadpan style. The final act, in which Hamlet re-stages his version of The Murder of Gonzago, is one of the comic highpoints of the director's career.
Thu Jul 23: 6:15pm
Fri Jul 24: 2:30pm
Sun Jul 26: 6:15pm

Henry V, aka
The Chronicle History of Henry the Fift with his Battell Fought in Agincourt in France
Laurence Olivier, UK, 1944; 137m
"Almost continually, [Henry V] invests the art of Shakespeare-and the art of cinema as well-with a new spaciousness, a new mobility, a new radiance." ~James Agee
Olivier's debut as a film director-complete with a $2 million price tag that made it the most expensive British film production to that point-literally moves from the stage of the Globe Theater deep into the realm of cinema, as the once wild Prince Hal assumes the throne and faces down a purportedly invincible French army at the Battle of Agincourt. Made when British wartime morale was being especially challenged, Olivier's Henry V is often read as straight nationalistic propaganda. Nevertheless, it became and remains among the best-loved Shakespeare adaptations on screen.
Wed Jul 15: 1:15pm and 6:15pm

King Lear / Korol Lir
Grigori Kozintsev, USSR, 1971; 140m
The Soviet cinema made more than its share of celebrated adaptations of classic world literature, but Kozintsev's King Lear, the Shakespeare play labeled by one critic "the best suited to Russian adaptation, being the longest, wildest, starkest, and most replete with pain and suffering at all levels," is among the greatest film versions of Shakespeare in any language. Using Boris Pasternak's translation and a superb score by Shostakovich, Kozintsev fashions an exhilarating adaptation that vividly captures both the chaos of battle and the deepening madness of the king.
Sat Jul 18: 4:15pm
Mon Jul 20: 3:20pm

Looking for Richard
Al Pacino, USA, 1996; 112m
This provocative musing on the Bard's place in today's culture follows Pacino's search for the soul of Richard III. Dedicated to rescuing the work from academic speculations and giving it back to the audience, he discusses performing Shakespeare with luminaries Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, and Kenneth Branagh, while working through the play in a production co-starring Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Spacey. Along the way, Pacino expresses both his touching reverence for Shakespeare's genius and an unbridled enthusiasm in sharing his pleasure with us all.
Wed Jul 22: 3:50pm
Sat Jul 25: 1:30pm

Macbeth (1948)
Orson Welles, USA, 1948; 108m
In the late '40s, Republic Studios president Herbert Yates moved to upgrade his B-studio by hiring name-brand filmmakers John Ford, Allan Dwan, and, following the failure of The Lady From Shanghai, Orson Welles. Welles's Macbeth, shot on the studio backlot in 23 days, brought out the true darkness of the play, but Yates grew nervous hearing that his actors were to speak with Scottish accents. He soon cut the film by 20 minutes and re-recorded the dialogue. This print, the result of exhaustive research by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, restores Welles's version, as well as the overture and original exit music.
Print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Macbeth preservation funded by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Sat Jul 18: 7:00pm

Macbeth (1971)
Roman Polanski, UK/USA, 1971; 140m
In perhaps the least romantic take on the Scot who would be king, Polanski, working with critic Kenneth Tynan, focuses on Macbeth's (Jon Finch) bloody will to rule and downplays his ruminations on the costs. In a daring move often inspiring mention of the then-recent murder of Polanski's wife Sharon Tate, the director includes an off-stage scene, Duncan's murder, rendering it from Macbeth's point of view. Seen today, Polanski's Macbeth firmly stands alongside the era's other meditations on ultra-violence, A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs, as harsh rebukes to the idea that humankind's worst instincts can be controlled.
Tue Jul 21: 2:00pm
Wed Jul 22: 8:40pm
Sun Jul 26: 8:00pm

The Maori Merchant of Venice / Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti
Don Selwyn, New Zealand, 2002; 158m
Made by a group of New Zealand filmmakers as the first feature completely shot in the Maori language, The Maori Merchant of Venice follows Hairoka (Waihoroi Shortland), an importer-exporter and religious pariah among his fellow wealthy Maoris. The film explores the creation of his outsider status and the uses his community makes of it. In a unique role reversal, Maori actors wear silks and satins while the few Caucasian role-players are treated as exotic others, offering a fascinating cross-cultural examination of Shakespeare.
Thu Jul 16: 6:15pm
Sun Jul 19: 1:00pm

Vishal Bhardwaj, India, 2003; 132m
Composer-cum-filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool is an engaging update of Macbeth set in contemporary Mumbai. Maqbool (the excellent Irrfan Khan, Slumdog Millionaire) is a leading henchman for crime boss Abbaji (an award-winning performance by Pankaj Kapoor), until two corrupt cops predict he will soon take over Abbaji's criminal empire with the help of his boss's mistress, Nimmi. Bhardwaj, who co-wrote the screenplay with Abbas Tyrewala, works outside of Bollywood convention, avoiding numerous subplots to focus on Maqbool's relentless rise to power and his inevitable collapse.
Fri Jul 24: 8:15pm
Sun Jul 26: 1:00pm

A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Dieterle and Max Reinhardt, USA, 1935; 132m
The romantic intrigue in the court of Theseus, Duke of Athens, has failed to pair each suitor with the right partner. That's nothing a few servings of the right magic can't cure. The only U.S. film credit for the highly influential Austro-German theater director Max Reinhardt is this Warner Bros. super-production, based on his 1934 staging in The Hollywood Bowl. Adding to his extraordinarily inventive cinematic vision are a superb James Cagney as Bottom, Olivia de Havilland as Hermia, Dick Powell as Lysander, and, unforgettably, Mickey Rooney as Puck.
Fri Jul 24: 4:15pm
Sun Jul 26: 3:45pm

Romeo and Juliet
Franco Zeffirelli, UK/Italy, 1968; 138m
"I believe Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet is the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made...because it has the passion, the sweat, the violence, the poetry, the love, and the tragedy in the most immediate terms I can imagine. It is a deeply moving piece of entertainment." ~Roger Ebert
Zeffirelli's wildly popular, Oscar-winning adaptation of Shakespeare's most ubiquitous work very much caught the spirit of the moment: shrewdly casting beautiful teenage unknowns Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, he emphasized the glory of young love when generational conflict was reaching a crescendo. Although taking great liberties with the text, he makes up what the film lacks in authenticity with a real sense of lived experience.
Wed Jul 15: 9:00pm
Thu Jul 16: 1:00pm
Sun Jul 19: 6:20pm

Romeo + Juliet
Baz Luhrmann, USA, 1996; 120m
Baz Luhrmann's eye-catching second feature transports the star-crossed lovers to an ocean-side North American suburb ("Verona Beach"), liberally peppering the original Elizabethan dialogue with modern-day accents and gun-toting action. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes generate plenty of on-screen heat while handling the text with admirable ease. Few adaptations have played more successfully with the inherent tensions between theatrical tradition and cinematic potential. With John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, and Paul Rudd.
Wed Jul 22: 1:30pm and 6:15pm
Sat Jul 25: 3:45pm

The Tempest
Derek Jarman, UK, 1979; 95m
"The concept of forgiveness in The Tempest attracted me; it's a rare enough quality and almost absent in our world. To know who your enemies are, but to accept them for what they are, befriend them, and plan for a happier future is something we sorely need." ~Derek Jarman
When a shipwreck strands Alonso on the obscure island on which he had banished his royal brother, the magician Prospero, and niece, Miranda, Prospero must decide how far to go to exact revenge. The late, great Derek Jarman presents Shakespeare's final play as a meditation on the possibility of re-invention, giving his exception visual imagination free rein in a film that combines elements of the Baroque, Gothic, and Roaring '20s.
Thu Jul 23: 2:30pm
Fri Jul 24: 6:15pm
Sat Jul 25: 9:00pm

Throne of Blood, aka Macbeth / Kumonosu jô
Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1957; 110m
When an old woman prophesizes that Lord Washizu (the great Toshirô Mifune) will one day become daimyo, the local provincial ruler, his wife Asaji (Isuza Yamada) spurs her husband into increasingly greater risks. Kurosawa's extraordinary adaptation of Macbeth, stripped of most dialogue and minor characters and performed through the stylistic filter of Japanese Noh theater, could scarcely be farther from the original. Yet few, if any, more effective screen adaptations of Shakespeare exist. Magnificently photographed on sets built on the side of Mount Fuji, Throne of Blood is one of Kurosawa's greatest achievements.
Wed Jul 15: 4:00pm
Sun Jul 19: 9:10pm

Julie Taymor, Italy/USA/UK, 1999; 162m
Julie Taymor, fresh from her stage triumph The Lion King, boldly took up the challenge of one of Shakespeare's earliest and most violent texts, grounding its horrors in recognizable if repellent emotions and her signature stunning visuals. Following his victory over the Goths, Roman general Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) returns home with the captured Goth queen Tamora (Jessica Lange). Despite her pleas for mercy, he sacrifices the queen's eldest son in memory of his own slain children. Thus begins a brutal cycle of revenge and treachery. With Alan Cumming and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Julie Taymor will be in person for this screening!
Thu Jul 23: 8:00pm

What's playing when:

Wednesday, July 15
1:15 Henry V
4:00 Throne of Blood
6:15 Henry V
9:00 Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Thursday, July 16
1:00 Romeo and Juliet (1968)
3:45 Hamlet (2000)
6:15 The Maori Merchant of Venice
9:15 Hamlet (2000)

Saturday, July 18
Antony and Cleopatra
4:15 King Lear
7:00 Macbeth (1948)
The Angelic Conversation

Sunday, July 19
1:00 The Maori Merchant of Venice
4:00 Hamlet (2000)
6:20 Romeo and Juliet (1968)
9:10 Throne of Blood

Monday, July 20
1:00 Antony and Cleopatra
3:20 King Lear

Tuesday, July 21
2:00 Macbeth (1971)

Wednesday, July 22
1:30 Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Looking for Richard
6:15 Romeo + Juliet (1996)
8:40 Macbeth (1971)

Thursday, July 23
2:30 The Tempest
4:30 The Angelic Conversation
6:15 Hamlet Goes Business
8:00 Titus

Friday, July 24
Hamlet Goes Business
4:15 A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Tempest
8:15 Maqbool

Saturday, July 25
Looking for Richard
3:45 Romeo + Juliet (1996)
6:30 Hamlet (1920)
The Tempest

Sunday, July 26
3:45 A Midsummer Night's Dream
6:15 Hamlet Goes Business
8:00 Macbeth (1971)

Single Screening Tickets: $7 members/students/child - $8 senior - $11 public
Series Pass ($40 public/$30 member): admits one person to five titles in the series;
only available for purchase at the box office ~ subject to availability.

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