Archive for Hamlet

The Sunday Intertitle: L’Herbier Rides Again

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2020 by dcairns

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Magnificent intertitles from L’HOMME DY LARGE, the closing film at this year’s Hippfest.

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I have my tickets to all of Sunday’s screenings, now I just have to calculate which of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday films I can afford. I’m extremely tempted by FILIBUS THE AIR PIRATE with music by my chum Jane Gardner, but there’s also THE WOMAN MEN YEARN FOR and CITY GIRL… And I’ve never seen THE LOVES OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, showing on Thursday with Fay Compton in the lead (before she owned Hill House), and on the same day, Asta Nielsen as HAMLET.

Since my writing work for the fest has bagged me tickets to POIL DE CAROTTE and THE MARK OF ZORRO, it makes sense to concentrate on Friday and Saturday, since actually getting to Bo’ness and back is part of the expense.

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Oh, I just can’t decide!

(Anybody with a car going through on Thurs, Fri or Sat?)

Me, Claudius

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2019 by dcairns

I should explain. The prolific, restless and gifted Helmut Kautner’s DER REST IST SCHWEIGEN (THE REST IS SILENCE, 1957) is a modern-dress Hamlet in which Hardy Kruger plays the melancholy John H. Claudius, returned from the US to the Claudius Ironworks, now being run by his uncle who has married his mother and all that.

This might be my favourite movie Hamlet though I think the Olivier is smashing and that Russian one has some stunning effects. Some argue that Kurosawa’s THE BAD SLEEP WELL is based on Hamlet though if so it’s pretty loose in my opinion. (Haven’t seen HAMLET GOES BUSINESS or the biy fat Branagh one.) This one departs in all sorts of ways, but only to sort of circle back. But it’s also up to various things that Shakespeare certainly never considered — the extraordinary thing is that it all works so well.

The movie looks at Nazi guilt — John H.’s father was pushed into supporting Hitler, while John himself spent the war in America. He’s been away for years and his father’s been dead for years and he’s never laid eyes on Fee (Ophelia — Ingrid Andree) since she was a baby, so that’s all quite different from the play.

Pohl (Polonius) is a smart old fellow, and quite likeable, which is also a change. It turns out to be quite an appealing one.

Laertes is called Herbert here, which seems only fair. (The only character in the play with no quotable lines.)

Claudius (well, technically they’re practically all called Claudius, but you know the one I mean) is Peter Van Eyck. Pairing him with Hardy Kruger is genius. Watched with a big grin. I love those guys.

Oh, and Rosenkrantz is now Mike Krantz, progressive ballet choreographer and coded gay (well, it’s not really code if you can make it out just by squinting), brought in to distract John Hamlet Claudius from his vengeful conniving. But this character is also compounded with the Player King so JHC can stage a ballet (entitled “The Mousetrap”) to catch the conscience of the managing director.

It doesn’t begin with a ghost. I was worried we wouldn’t have a ghost. It’s Christmas, we must have a ghost.

Another departure — JHC tells Horatio (he’s just called Horatio, why mess up a good thing?) that his father phoned him — after death. (Just like Ida Lupino’s deaddad — honest, I’m not making it up, I don’t think.) And we get a helpful silent flashback showing this. So, there’s a ghost! There’s a ghost on the phone!

Kautner, like his Hamlet, had just got back from the US, but unlike him, he had been directing Sandra Dee pictures. Really good ones! A bit of his Universal experience seems to have rubbed off when Kruger goes for a drunken drive in his tiny convertible and it’s all a bit WRITTEN ON THE WIND.

Kautner’s style is magnificently all over the shop. A mix of classical and jazz. Lap dissolves AND crash zooms. Expressionist-noir lighting and angles, plus an almost documentary look to the location work (it’s a GREAT film for reinforced concrete and bombed-out buildings and smoking factories, things I now feel should feature in every Hamlet adaptation).

Fee/Ophelia is set up as mentally ill or at least vulnerable from the start, which helps her character, and Ingrid Andree is very touching.

And of course Hardy Kruger — the perfect Hamlet! Boyish and smart, a bit dangerous and cruel and neurotic, handsome but offbeat (TOO boyish).

Snow!

Hamlet doesn’t ACT mad in this one — his behaviour is incongruous enough on its own to make sectioning him seem like sound strategy. So they plot to send him to the Highland Falls Nervensanatorium, Glasgow.

This is a terrific show, just when I needed one (you can have too much late Terence Young). OK, the climax is rushed and they have trouble getting the necessary number of deaths into a modern boardroom setting, but the fade-out — featuring two characters who are dead by this point in the play — is DEVASTATING — and I’ve never found Hamlet all that moving, I’m ashamed to say.

Yes, maybe Kautner’s ending is better than Shakespeare’s.

THE REST IS SILENCE stars Capt. Potsdorf; Hans-Dieter Mundt; Zouzou Kuckuck; Mackie Messer; Inspektor Richard “Dick” Martin; and Adolf Hitler as himself.

Desperate Dane

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2019 by dcairns

I was always sort of curious about Tony Richardson’s HAMLET. And maybe the end result is more sort-of-interesting than truly compelling, but those kind of films are very attractive to blog about, I find…

Richardson made the film cheaply by shooting at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, using the backstage spaces, a lot of bare brick corridors, making for a dour and oppressive Elsinore… also, shooting practically the whole film in tight medium shots and close-up, so as to take the strain off the art department and put the emphasis on face and voice. But here’s where the artistry comes in, because while a film of HAMLET made up of close-ups sounds like a televisual thing, Richardson keeps his cast, and Gerry Fisher’s camera, in motion, continually cramming new faces into the frame in new compositions. It’s very, very inventive, and turns a budgetary consideration into a compelling artistic one. The way figures fall off into soft blurs as they recede; the way the ghost never appears on camera but impresses merely by his voice (uncredited — who?) and by a bright light on the astonished features of the onlookers; the way everyone is always just UP IN YOUR FACE…

The cast is pretty interesting: Nicol Williamson’s puffy, pallid face does not suggest that of a student, but name me a Hamlet who does. What he does have is the ability to speak his speeches like a normal human having a conversation (without trampling the pentameters), so that he’s at his very best in the more conversational scenes. Williamson is one of those actors who can get overexcited, so I’m slightly less enamoured of his Big Scenes, but once you get over the shock of a Hamlet who’s so physically unappealing (maybe this is my self-loathing Scots side talking) I think you’ll find him impressive.

Marianne Faithfull as Ophelia seems less naturalistic, but maybe because Marianne Faithfull does not have a naturalistic face, body or voice. She’s not like someone you’d expect to meet, though I warrant you’d count yourself lucky if you did. A bit like Fenella Fielding, her mouth assumes expressions impossible on a normal skull, but I don’t think it’s mere whimsy that compels her to do so. Her face just goes that way. It’s like she’s continually being called upon to say the words “stewed prunes.” So she’s more miraculous than credible, through no fault of her own. Unable to overcome her natural advantages. And I kind of question what she sees in the jowly Scotchman, but there it is.

Antony Hopkins and Judy Parfitt are both within a year of Williamson’s age, which makes their casting as his uncle and mother… questionable. But that’s practically a tradition too. Boost the Oedipal aspect by giving H a MILF of a mom. Of course, in terms of box office, and possibly in terms of artistic success, Richardson ought to have swapped his Hamlet with his Claudius, because a movie starring Hopkins as The Dane would still be shifting units today if he’d done so. But in fact, both Hopkins and Parfitt have been rendered less effective than they might be by some very odd direction. It’s clearly a decision Richardson made, something he wanted. They’re both amused by Hamlet’s grief and unconcerned when he goes mad. It’s quite hard to work out why they embark on subterfuges with Polonius to learn the cause of his derangement, because they really don’t seem bothered about it. Most peculiar.