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March 5 - April 30

Shakespeare on Film

This series, curated by Professor Marjorie Garber, presents a selection of films either directly adapted or loosely inspired by the writings of William Shakespeare.

March 5 (Monday) 7 pm

To Be or Not to Be

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
US 1942, 35mm, b/w, 99 min.
With Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack

Created at the height of Germany's power during the Second World War, To Be or Not to Be is an anti-Nazi satire set in occupied Warsaw, centering on the resistance of a Polish theater company and the ham antics of its narcissistic husband and wife stars (Benny and Lombard). Ernst Lubitsch managed to pull off the impossible in this witty, sophisticated comedy, successfully satirizing Hitler and the Nazi party without wallowing in bad taste. Benny provides a memorable turn as a would be Hamlet.

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March 12 (Monday) 7 pm

King Lear

Directed by Peter Brook
UK/Denmark 1971, 35mm, b/w, 137 min.
With Paul Scofield, Cyril Cusack, Susan Engel

Based on his famous stage production, Peter Brook’s King Lear is considered one of the best cinematic renditions of any Shakespeare play.  Master of the British stage Paul Scofield provides a wrenching performance as Lear while the authentic atmosphere of the exterior scenes (shot on Denmark's freezing Jutland Peninsula) enhances Brook’s nihilistic take on the tragedy, which was influenced by Polish critic Jan Kott’s controversial book Shakespeare Our Contemporary.

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April 9 (Monday) 7 pm


Directed by Roman Polanski
UK/US 1971, 35mm, color, 140 min.
With John Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw

In the wake of Sharon Tate’s grizzly murder in his Los Angeles home by members of the Manson family, Roman Polanski produced one of his most violent and angry films. Giving emphasis to some of Shakespeare’s more gruesome images, such as the birth of Macduff (“from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d”), Polanski offers a pointed, contemporary revision of the Bard’s shortest tragedy. Although the play’s fantastic elements remain intact, the film’s ominous on-location exteriors infuse the material with a stark realism. Print courtesy of Swank Films.

Introduction by Producer Stephen Bayly
April 30 (Monday) 7 pm

Richard III

Directed by Richard Loncraine
UK/US 1995, 35mm, 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. Print courtesy of Swank Films.

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