Pace Cole Porter, I couldn’t resist the post title because last evening ol’ Robbo kicked off his annual Bachelor Week by watching Ralph Feinnes’ 2011 production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. (Go here for a synopsis of the story, which the Bard is supposed to have pinched from a translation of Plutarch.)
I will confess that, despite having concentrated on Shakespeare as a college English major, I have never read this play nor seen a performance of it before. Indeed, aside from being aware of its bloody reputation, my only previous encounter had been a still photo of Laurence Olivier playing the part, being held upside down by his ankles and covered in gore. (Oh, and as a complete aside, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture is, IMHO, one of his best bits of incidental musick, although it has nothing to do with the Bard’s play.) So my opinion probably isn’t worth all that much.
Nevertheless, I believe the film was, on balance, worth a dekko, and I raise a glass to whomever of you recommended it.
On the plus side, the play itself is classic tragedy. Coriolanus (if you haven’t clicked the link yet) is a noble hero of the young Roman Republic, having devoted his life to her wars against both her Etruscan oppressors and neighboring cities. By every right, he ought to be propelled to the highest offices and receive the highest accolades, but his Patrician pride and his refusal to kiss the collective backsides of teh Roman mob drive him to his eventual undoing. You will seldom see a better teeing up of the ancient Grecco-Roman literary concept of hamartia, the Tragic Flaw. Furthermore, with Feinnes himself as the glowering Coriolanus, Gerard (“SPAAAARTAAAANSSS!!!”) Butler as his arch-enemy Aufidius, and Vanessa Redgrave (yes) as his mother, Volumnia, you’ve got a solid core of actors who actually know what to do with the Bard. (Most of the extras seem to be Jugs of one sort or another with names ending in -jovic and -jevick.)
On the minus side, the play is set in modern times, something which regular friends of the decanter will know generally displeases ol’ Robbo. (Indeed, I suppose the point Feinnes was after was to make it look like an episode out of the recent unpleasantness in the Balkans, which would explain the ethnic make-up of the extras. The comparison to the history of early republican Rome is not completely illegitimate.) So instead of men running about with plumed helmets and swords, you get men running about with body armor and modern weaponry plus lots of stuff blowing up. I suppose I could live with that. What I didn’t like was the accompanying modern media portrayal of war – complete with nooz flashes, punditistas (including a Bill O’Reilly lookalike) and video cameras everywhere. There’s where your “relevant” setting drifts across the line to annoying distraction. On the other hand, I thought the scenes of parliamentary maneuvering – especially the bits featuring the Tribunes – the “crows to peck the eagles” – who were out to hocus Coriolanus for being such a shhhnob– were really quite effective.
Finally, the film is shot in that bobbly, hand-held style so fashionable these days that tends to give ol’ Robbo something of a headache, particularly when, as was the case last evening, he is weighed down to the Plimsoll mark with wiener schnitzel and potato pancakes.
All in all, though, I’ll give this film two and a half bumpers out of five.
Next up, The World’s End.
UPDATE: I was chatting with teh Mothe this afternoon about this fillum and she remarked that since Schindler’s List she simply can’t bear to watch Feinnes. I admitted I’ve never actually seen it, as I am too much of a coward. Same deal with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I dunno how I would respond to the Real Thing, but my tolerance for, well, Screen Evil is pretty durn low.