Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shakespeare In Love … With Roman Polanski

Ok, when I saw a Roman Polanski story turn up in my newsfeed filters I assumed there’d be some reference to his 1971 Macbeth.

Nope.  In this case it’s a Shakespeare In Love reference.  It seems that producer Harvey Weinstein was at the forefront of recently circulated Hollywood memo of support for child rapist Roman Polanski.  Weinstein was also the producer for Shakespeare in Love.

But wait!  The connection is deeper, the article suggests.  We Shakespeare geeks know that Shakespeare In Love won the Oscar for best picture in 1999, beating out Saving Private Ryan, which many people still scream is the greatest tragedy in the history of that particular award.  So be it.

Gary Thompson argues that Weinstein is typical of Hollywood’s growing insular nature, where it no longer cares about anything but itself:

…its story of a theater troupe outsmarting censors reminded all of the writers and actors who vote for the Academy Awards how wonderful they are.

He then goes on to suggest that this is Weinstein’s method – make movies that flatter actors and writers, because they’re the ones that vote.  They don’t want to be reminded of WWII, they want to be reminded of how wonderful they are.

I don’t know if I agree or not.  But I do know that the next time the topic comes up I’ll have a point to make. :)


Gedaly said...

It's no big secret that the "best" art doesn't always win the highest awards. For example, the Tony awards a few years back Wicked and Avenue Q were the musicals nominated for best musical. Wicked didn't win to everyone's surprise, it was the --by many accounts-- best musical... BUT the awards are voted for by producers. Wicked can sell itself but if Avenue Q can be advertised by saying it won the award for "best musical," it'll be an easier sale.

Continuing with the Broadway topic, many many many shows have been successfully produced that are about theatre -- about actors, producers, directors putting on a show. And look at all the movies that are about movies (or performers, artists, musicians, etc.)

Craig said...

Well, I can't shed too many tears that a musical riding on the coat-tails of "The Wizard of Oz" lost out to a musical riding on the coat-tails of "Sesame Street."

I enjoyed them both. I probably would have voted for Avenue Q at the time, because it was clever and fun and the staging was really neat the way it looked back at both Jim Henson and Japanese puppetcraft. But I can already sense that "Wicked" ages better than "Q"--it has a more independent and authentic artistic life of its own, whereas "Avenue Q" is pretty light stuff once you get over the ironic hipster takedown of childhood institutions. But the Tony doesn't strike me as a great injustice.

Craig said...

Oh, yeah: Polanski. Somehow I've created a distinction in my mind between Polanski's work pre-conviction and post-conviction, in that I don't patronize his work since he became a sex criminal and fugitive from justice, but I feel okay watching and discussing his earlier films. I don't really know whether that makes sense or not.

I think his Macbeth is a really tremendous and important piece of filmmaking, although it's almost more of an audio-visual meditation on Macbeth than a "production" of the play: the text and the poetry is pushed so far into the background that it scarcely intrudes onto the viewer's consciousness. What _is_ present in the foreground is a nightmare vision, communicated primarily in images, of chaos and cruelty, death and disintegration: the idea that "civilization" is mostly a sham, and about as substantial as a soap-bubble: rarely obtained and easily destroyed. I think it's one of the central ideas in Shakespeare, and you rarely see it explored this well, or unflinchingly.