Saturday, May 23, 2015

First Reviews of Macbeth: Something Wicked (Good) This Way Comes


So you were worried about Marion Cotillard doing Lady Macbeth with a French accent? Er, okay, that was me, and now Macbeth has screened at Cannes and the first reviews are in and I needn't have been. The accent serves to underline her otherness making her grim ambition totally understandable. 

What the critics are saying:
They love the chemistry of Fassbender and Cotillard, while they complain, because they have to, that not all of the Bards words are given their due, that there was a wee bit of editing and liberties taken, and some Shakespearian lines were cast off a bit too casually and delivered in a mumbling style that director Justin Kurzel seems to favor. The Game of Thrones blood-thirstiness of it all is met with approval and the sweeping canvas of Scotland as backdrop clearly offers a refreshing look at what's being called a brutal 'battle-heavy' drama. Some are talking Oscars. Not just for the cast which seems to have delivered uniformly brilliant performances but also for Kurzel's vision and for cinematographer Adam Arkapaw whose cinematic touch enhanced television's True Detective to the nth degree. So hooray! Your English teacher would be proud. You can go see a Shakespearian drama and actually, really, sincerely enjoy it. Even if, you know, you didn't quite understand every single little word. The thing is I'm not sure when that will happen. Macbeth has a UK release date of October 8th with nothing announced for the US yet. Oh, it'll come. Reviews like this don't get ignored, but the question in when? Aye, there's the rub. 


I really enjoyed reading Leslie Falperin's take on the film in The Hollywood Reporter:

Michael Fassbender stars as the title character in Justin Kurzel's verion of Shakespeare's Scotland-set play, opposite Marion Cotillard as his ambitious wife

With its foregrounded class conflict, horror-movie spookiness and, most importantly, use of brutal violence, it's an adaptation that has a much better chance than most Bard-based works of crossing-over to audiences beyond the arthouses. The play's evergreen popularity in high-school syllabuses should help that along, as will the growing box-office draw of Michael Fassbender, sexy, charismatic and later poignant when his reason is unseated in the title role, opposite a surprisingly cast but completely persuasive Marion Cotillard as his manipulative wife.
The one constituency that probably won't look especially kindly on this will be stringent Shakespeare purists, who might start with scoffing at why three people (Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff and Michael Lesslie) are credited for the screenplay before Shakespeare's name even gets a mention. (Presumably, they collaborated on the trimming down the dialogue and plotting several wordless scenes not in the original and the like.) Viewers accustomed to theatrical versions of Shakespeare may also be considerably less impressed. A well-trained stage actor should be able to find a way to make nearly every word, however archaic, sound comprehensible as well as audible. Although the film's press notes talk up how much the whole cast worked with coach Neil Swain to refine their delivery, there's an awful lot of mumbling going on here, and a sense that while the emotion might be discernible in the performer's face, it's like some kind of free-floating entity not tethered to what's coming out of his or her mouth. At times, some might as well be reciting names from the phone book instead of the free verse.
Here's the rest of her review  

Guy Lodge at Variety found it 'fearsomely visceral':

Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender excel in Justin Kurzel's thrillingly savage interpretation of the Scottish Play

As the shortest, sharpest and most stormily violent of William Shakespeare’s tragedies, “Macbeth” may be the most readily cinematic: The swirling mists of the Highlands, tough to fabricate in a theater, practically rise off the printed page. So it’s odd that, while “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” get dusted off at least once a generation by filmmakers, the Scottish Play hasn’t enjoyed significant bigscreen treatment since Roman Polanski’s admirable if tortured 1971 version. The wait for another may be even longer after Justin Kurzel’s scarcely improvable new adaptation: Fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period. Though the Bard’s words are handled with care by an ideal ensemble, fronted by Michael Fassbender and a boldly cast Marion Cotillard, it’s the Australian helmer’s fervid sensory storytelling that makes this a Shakespeare pic for the ages — albeit one surely too savage for the classroom.
Here's the rest of Lodge's review


The Guardian liked it too ...

Fassbender and Cotillard full of sound and fury in significant Shakespeare adaptation   

The Highlands are recast as a glowing outback in this extremely stylish and sometimes inspired new version by the director of Snowtown

This is not the traditional stage Macbeth, crammed into claustrophobic interior spaces. It is conceived in (and almost dwarfed by) a vast Scottish plain, like Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. The movie never entirely quits the battlefield (“heath” is replaced with “battlefield” in one early tinkering with the text) above which the air finally becomes blood red in a dusty fog of war — a Scots Outback, maybe. The leery figure of the Porter is entirely removed: this is a deadly serious Macbeth, with fascinating moments and shrewd, sharp insights, though often the pace is conducted at a uniform drumbeat. There are slo-mo battles, stylised blood-spouts and bellicose roaring, perhaps influenced by Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood — and some mangled Scottish accents from its Irish, French and English stars. The genuine Scots voices, coming from the mouths of minor characters, sound like a documentary-realist interjection from another film

And from Indie Wire, where Jessica Klang ascribes it as 'tectonic gravitas'
Brooding, dense, and consistently magnificent to an almost self-defeating degree, Justin Kurzel's "Macbeth" is a bloody, muddy, mighty adaptation of one of Shakespeare's mightiest plays. Kurzel, whose only previous film, the excellent but confined "Snowtown," which gave us no real idea that he was capable of such tectonic gravitas, does not offer a reinterpretation of the text so much as a head-first plunge into its depths, dredging up whole chunks of Shakespeare's verse and raising them aloft like he's ripping the beating heart from a mastodon. The words are honored almost as written, but the images, which must surely see "True Detective" cinematographer Adam Arkapaw come barreling into the awards race, are where Kurzel tells the story, and are where he makes his most significant and inventive decisions.
Read the rest of Klang's review


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