Love’s Labours Lost

So my wife says, “You gotta see Love’s Labour’s Lost streaming on Netflix.”  I say okay, so Pete and I sit down to watch it with her.

It was… a trip.  I remember when it came out and it got panned. So I didn’t bother at the time. Now that I’ve seen it, I just don’t understand critics some days.

Kenneth Branagh decided to take a light and fluffy comedy from Shakespeare and make it… a light and fluffy musical comedy.  So in between Will’s text:

you get people busting out in Gershwin, Berlin, and Porter tunes and big boffo dance numbers straight out of the heyday of the MGM musical era.

(By the way, can that Adrian Lester dance or what? Also, gotta love the “Hmmm. What do we do with this ‘It kills sheep’? thingie” solution to this textual oddity.)

I dunno. Maybe some people are offended by messing with the purity of The Sacred Text.

Me: I don’t think Shakespeare is Holy Writ and people have been editing and redacting and playing around with him for five centuries, turning Macbeth in a western and setting Midsummer Night’s Dream at a 50s sock hop and making Romeo and Juliet into West Side Story and transmogrifying The Tempest into Forbidden Planet when they aren’t turning Prospero into Prospera. Heck, Da Man even stole from himself and used lines from previous plays in later ones (both Merchant of Venice and Hamlet use the line “Whereto serves mercy but to confront the visage of offence?”). So I was completely charmed by the big splashy numbers, the goofy gee-whiz choreography that made up for lack of polish with “Hey! Let’s do a Show!” heart. They even managed to get in an Esther Williams Bathing Beauties number. With the exception of one pretty steamy dance number you might want to think twice about before letting the kids watch, the show is a treat.

But then, like Cookie Monster, me not know art, but me know what me like. I thoroughly enjoyed LLL. Check it out.

  • bear

    There was a time I taught Shakespeare at University. One of my faourite tricks to pull on the class was to announce that we would be watching a movie adaptation of King Lear, and put on Kurasawa’s Ran. I loved watching the students look at each other with puzzled looks on their faces as they tried to remember whether or not Lear actually had samurai in it.
    That said, I don’t much care for most modern adaptations of the Bard, but it isn’t the setting that gets me, it’s the politics that so many directors impose upon the text as they use Shakespeare’s words to spread their message.

    • Michael J. Lichens

      Ran is a masterpiece of cinematic brilliance. The cinematography alone should be held up as the epitome of film.

      That said, I agree with you that most modern adaptations of the Bard are rather annoying in their use of modern politics.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    L. Jagi Lamplighter wrote the best Shakespearean-inspired book I’ve read. I love her Prospero Series. Shakespeare touches on so many of the classical conflicts and basic human motives, which is why he has inspired so many derivations and retellings.

  • Yeargh

    I have to say that I witnessed something called “MacBeth: the Musical” set in the 1960′s around the JFK assassination. The three witches were in see through plastic miniskirts. I think the actors could hear my friend and me laughing because it was so utterly horrible.

  • LSUStatman

    Joe Gillis: “Last one I wrote was about Okies in the Dust Bowl. You’d never know because when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat.”

    (William Holden; “Sunset Blvd”)

  • Sigroli

    People “have been editing and redacting and playing around with him for five centuries”? Try four.

  • Archaeopteryx

    Kenneth Branagh is a treasure. The man has an obvious love and enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s work, and that passion comes through in all of his treatments of the material along with talent enough to make it work.

    His version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is still one of my favorite performances.


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