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September 17 - October 21, 2003

(Re)screening Shakespeare

September 17 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Richard III

Directed by Richard Loncraine
UK/US, 1995, color, 104 min.
With Ian McKellen, Kristin Scott Thomas, Annette Bening

Richard of Gloucester is transported to England in the 1930s in this modernist retelling of one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. Director Richard Loncraine constructs an alternative reality in which the British government and monarchy have been overtaken by a group of black-shirted, motorcycle-riding fascists headed by one of the Bard’s most villainous creations. Ian McKellen, who co-wrote this inventive adaptation with Loncraine, provides a masterful interpretation of the title role that strikes a near-perfect balance between the comedic and dramatic elements of the original material.

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September 24 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Romeo + Juliet

Directed by Baz Luhrmann
US, 1996, color, 120 min.
With Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Pete Postlethwaite

From the film’s opening image of a television news anchor delivering Shakespeare’s famous prologue, it is clear that this is not your father’s Verona. It is, in fact, Verona Beach, a seedy modern metropolis where the rival corporate families Montague and Capulet vie for dominance, often in bloody shootouts with Sword-brand handguns. Luhrmann has carefully constructed a contemporary world where much of Shakespeare’s original dialogue can be retained, but Romeo + Juliet is no mere exercise in cleverness. The director’s kinetic camerawork and frantic pacing are, as in his later Moulin Rouge, complemented by a treatment of his characters’ passions that is at once both highly personal and operatic.

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October 21 (Tuesday) 9:15 pm

My Own Private Idaho

Directed by Gus Van Sant
US, 1991, color, 104 min.
With River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo

Henry IV gets a gritty update in Van Sant's follow-up to his breakthrough Drugstore Cowboy. Mike (Phoenix) and Scott (Reeves) are two street hustlers dealing with familial issues. Scott has a tumultuous relationship with his father, the mayor of Portland, Oregon. Mike, a narcoleptic, was abandoned as a child. Mike is desperately in love with Scott, who considers his own homosexual behavior to be merely a phase through which he is passing before collecting his substantial inheritance. Together they travel to Rome in search of Mike’s birth mother. Van Sant directs with the sensitivity and visual poetry that characterizes his early work, and Reeves and Phoenix anchor the film with powerful, heartfelt performances.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700