Thursday, January 29, 2009

RE: Henry V - Beware the Babakitis

Film Buffs, indeed,

What a sprightly re-view of the Henry V films. When Randall first announced "Monday Night Shakepeare," I was reading Henry V and my eye fell on the perfect motto: "Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour" (I.ii.300). Indeed, apparently Randall and Derek got all the way to act four of Peter Babakitis before the Rogue Ales (that's Ashland, Oregon) Shakespeare Stout ran out.

But Randall's conclusion, that Babakitis is "the worst version of Shakespeare on screen" is a challenge to us all. Surely … I have not seen Babakitis yet, so I'll have to stick to the comparative "rilly bad" rather than worst. I'm going to leave out Prospero's Books because I may just be too dim-witted for it, whereas some people I know and (used to) respect have proclaimed its greatness. Except for the novel concept that The Tempest's deserted island, apart from Caliban and Ariel, is inhabited by 500 to 600 nudists, heretofore overlooked, I find the film unwatchable.

Randall's comment that Olivier yells a lot in Henry V is fair, though the single most scenery-chewing "great" actor in Shakespeare film is John Barrymore as Mercutio in George Cukor's Romeo and Juliet (1936), but then he really must raise his voice to be heard over the swelling score. But the worst…

Think of Hamlet, directed by Clestino Coronado (1977), "a triumph…extraordinary visceral appeal…raw life, style and sense of imagination…stunning immediacy which often has the hair crawling on the back of the neck." Helen Mirren as Gertrude and Ophelia and Quentin Crisp, that gay icon of the seventies, author of The Naked Civil Servant, as Polonius. Anthony Meyer and David Meyer play Hamlet. What? Mirren doubles while the identical Meyer twins halve themselves (?!?) in order to emphasize Hamlet's "split personality." Oh, and they play him in the nude. In the buff. Not one nude twin for the inner Hamlet and the other in "too too sullied" dress, the "nighted color" of mourning. No. They are both naked. If you can film in 16mm, this one may be in 7 1/2mm. Color by Crayola (the pre-school beginner's box). The only redeeming feature is Mirren able to keep a straight face for all 67 minutes.

So the razzberry goes to … "The Naked Hamlet."



kj said...

I may have to vote for Babakitis as one of the very worst modern Shakespeare films at the very least. My basic review? "Not quite up to YouTube standards."


Randall said...

Nicely put. I fear that both the digital video camera and YouTube, and the concurrent democratization of film-making, will provide us with more Babakitises in the future. In the meantime, I'd love to see the rest of your "very worst of modern Shakespeare films" list. (I enjoy your blog as well.)

kj said...

Is that a veiled invitation to do a guest post on the William Shakespeare Experience? I'm flattered!

I'm also a bit busy at present, but I'd be happy to take up that challenge a bit later!

In the meantime, perhaps Nigel Tomm's Hamlet, which consists of 63 minutes of white screen, can make a showing.

And thanks for the compliment! I'm enjoying this blog, too!