, , , , ,

William Shakespeare, chief figure of the Engli...

Image via Wikipedia

Julie Taymor‘s film version of The Tempest opens this month—not in the hinterlands where I live, but in enough theaters to guarantee consideration in 2010 Academy Awards. From previews, it looks intriguing, not just because of the casting of Helen Mirren as “Prospera.”

Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon.com has put together an entertaining and instructive review of traditional and variations-on-the-theme’d Shakespeare films:

In honor of the release of what must be the 265 millionth adaptation of a Shakespeare play, Julie Taymor’s version of “The Tempest,” we’ve put together a list of memorable Shakespeare adaptations for film and television. Because the playwright is infinitely adaptable, we’ve divided each slide into two categories: “Traditional” and “Wild Card.”

I would add one additional “Wild Card” for Macbeth: Scotland, Pa., a black comedy in which the McBeths scheme to take over Duncan’s hamburger stand, only to be foiled by Lt. McDuff. The performances by Maura Tierney as “Pat” McBeth and Christopher Walken as detective McDuff are the best, but the entire concept works remarkably well.

The Salon.com list is also short on comedy. I can accept that in a list limited to ten “canonical” plays, tragedies and histories are going to dominate, but Shakespeare’s comedies rarely get their due recognition. As someone once said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” I don’t know that I’d want to replace any of the choices on the list, but if I could add to it, I’d add Much Ado About Nothing and Kenneth Branagh’s film version—solely for Beatrice and Benedick—and Twelfth Night in Trevor Nunn’s film version as well as a BBC TV production in a contemporary setting with the stunning Chiwetel Ejiofor as Orsino and Parminder Nagra as a very understated Viola/Cesario. This production isn’t altered enough to qualify as one of Seitz’s “wild cards,” but it does use 21st century technology in some effective ways, for music, and especially for eavesdropping.