Saturday, 23 April 2011

Cinematic Shakespeare, Part Two: The Ladies

I meant to post this yesterday, but alas - I was without internet (horrors). Well, today is the birthday of the Bard so moving on to the excellent women who have done brilliant things because of him.
Glenn Close as Queen Gertrude (Hamlet)
Coming off the one-two punch of Alex Fisher and Isabel de Merteuil, I suppose the idea of Close as Gertrude seems liked some outlandish casting from Zeffreli she still emerges as the finest characterisation of the Queen I’ve seen on film. It’s probably her theatrical roots coming to the surface. Gertrude, I suppose, emerges as one of the more ambiguous mothers from Shakespeare. Close manages to retain that ambiguity without making the character too sinister. At her best she manages to sustain that chemistry with Gibson while creating the same with Bates – without making Gertrude seem insincere.

Olivia Hussey as Juliet (Romeo & Juliet)
Olivia looks even younger than Leonardo, which makes her seem to even more of a wise choice for Juliet. As young as the characters are in the play, we often think of them as older and Olivia manages to juxtapose the generally adult desires of Juliet with the more fanciful, youthful portion. It’s an amalgamation that works, especially in the final moments of the film where she’s astounding. As with Whiting, it’s a real shame she never did something as special again.

Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Olivia (Twelfth Night)
On the most obvious levels Helena doesn’t seem like the obvious fit for Olivia, but the entire film is sort of ironic adaptation of the entire film. It’s somewhere between Helen Schlegel and Kate Croy but not anywhere as domineering and she’s easily the best in show – even if she’s not the traditional heroine of the play. To call her comedic skills subtle would be an understatement and despite the more obvious incongruities that exist between her and the character it’s the unobtrusive comedic gifts she uses to define a character who’s not quite funny but is at the centre of comedy.

Elizabeth Taylor as Katherina (The Taming of the Shrew)
I said before, I always think of the Shrew when I hear about Elizabeth Taylor. True, it’s not her best performance but it’s such a fine example of her at her most tenacious – which is what I remember her most for, as an actor and a person. She’s beautiful and terrible and performs with an astounding comedic timing – it’s as if the role was written with her in mind.

Emma Thompson as Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing)
It only makes sense that the finest female Shakespearean performance comes from a thoroughly British actor. I can’t think of any actor, of her generation, who so seems to so easily encapsulate the spirit of the Shakespearean era. Shakespeare, at its heart, is about its words and Emma Thompson wins easy points for her excellent enunciation. She’s just perfect here.

Later in the afternoon I'll have the closing with a special top 5.
Which of these ladies impresses you most?


Robert said...

I just adore Emma Thompson in "Much Ado About Nothing". Her performance is so smart, so articulate and so wonderful that it's impossible not to fall in love.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

and she does it all without ever being conventional. emma thompson is a force to be reckoned with.