Saturday, November 12, 2011


I'm breezily skipping over some of the more familiar MACBETH movies (which are certainly not to be thus ignored) Polanski, Welles, what I call the Judi Dench MACBETH (with Ian Mckellen ... directed by Trevor Nunn ... highly recommended by the way), etc. to get at some other takes.

MACBETH ... it's a cinematic natural--ruthless power struggles, violence, murder, insatiable ambition, ghosts, madness, a bit of kinky sex. In that direction MACBETH has translated with apparent ease from royal Scotland to a gang or criminal empire milieu--from JOE MACBETH (1995) a Ken Hughes film with Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman to the 2006 Australian MACBETH starring Sam Worthington (who went on to deal with all those blue people in AVATAR). Set and filmed in Melbourne it overlays Australian accents on top of Elizabethan blank verse for more or less maximum incomprehensibility. The expected violence and buckets of blood plus the seemingly inevitable nudity of the crazed Lady M seems generic and ultimately tiresome. Australians coping with blank verse, Shakespeare and a contemporary vision and psychology are on better display with Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO + JULIET (to my mind a pretty brilliant movie-- but others disagree violently).

, PA. is a 2002 film by Billy Morrissette set in 1970s and revolves around the desperate (and bloody) and eventually grotesque struggle for not a throne but a hamburger drive--in emporium in semi-rural Pennsylvania. Broadly satiric often very funny, it is ultimately dark and disturbing. Containing no verbal Shakespeare to speak of (and a lot ... a lot ... of profanity) it has a kind of manic charm and, yes, a kind of Shakespearean vitality and exuberance and madness. You'll probably either love it ... or hate it ... but you might check it out.

The MACBETH of Patrick Stewart (a film made for PBS and the BBC in 2011 from the stage production seen in New York and London) is for the most part a intense and gripping (and often truly terrifying) vision of the play but the Wes Craven--George Romero horror film trappings can get a little overdone and hence lose their shock. Kate Fleetwood is a neurotic very scary lady and Patrick Stewart speaks the intricate verse and illuminates the depths (both repellant and sympathetic) of Macbeth with profound conviction and even beauty. Set in a kind of mad underground world of a Soviet era dictatorship it is brutal and effective ... and you'll never be comfortable around nurses again. []

Just for fun (and after the Stewart film you may need some) check out Hogwarts:

And for the best Shakespearean film of all (at least in my opinion ... and many others) look at Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD if you don't know it. MACBETH infiltrates a Japanese samurai culture and everybody wins (except for Macbeth...but then he gets one of the greatest death scenes in film) …

--John Conklin

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I've always loved "Scotland, PA"! I completely forgot about that movie until I saw it listed here! I think I know what I'll be picking up from the library this week!