Monday, May 18, 2009

Fun at Film Club

Sometimes, I think that perhaps we take ourselves a bit too seriously at film club; plenty of meaty art house films and hard hitting dramas; you've probably got the idea by now.

Sunday night's presentation, Kenneth Branagh's 2000 release Love's Labour's Lost proved to be a simple tale, delightfully told with more laughs along the way than your average Shakespeare-phobic might expect.
First up - it's a musical, utilising songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin and Jerrome Kern/Dorothy Fields - wow, what a soundtrack! The songs are performed with tongues firmly in cheeks amidst the Shakespearian dialogue (which is cut and chopped about in the interests of keeping the film pelting along at a riotous pace). Some of the dance routines are very demanding, Adrian Lester (Dumaine) is a revelation and quite evidently a highly trained and accomplished song and dance man.
The film also plays heavily on the slapstick side of old time comedy; plenty of immaculately timed pratfalls keep the audience smiling and occasionally laughing aloud. Nathan Lane as Costard and Timothy Spall as Don Armado are both in their element, hamming it up for all it's worth and breathing fun into Shakepeare's lines. Lane is especially good when playing the fool using a hard-won expertise in what the old vaudevillians called "business" - messing around with a handkerchief, rolling a hat from your head down your arm and flipping it back onto your bonce. Great stuff and pure theatre.

Branagh is clearly a superb director with an exciting vision of how to bring Shakespeare to life; he's been acclaimed as such by crits far more expert than me. If I were to find a fault, though, it would be that his portrayal of Berowne was identical to his portrayal of Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing with the obvious exception that Benedick never bursts into song and doesn't tap dance; surely it's within his powers to vary his performances a wee bit more?

That minor gripe aside and Love's Labour's Lost is packed with great performances; Richard Briers (Nathaniel), Alicia Silverstone (The Princess of France), Jimmy Yuill (Constable Dull) and the rest of the company give their all and produce a sparkling ensemble piece.

So - the all important film club scale: Dong only took a fag break when the DVD started freezing the image and yours truly had to go and clean it; Shazzerooneypoos didn't wuffle at all but was chuckling away merrily throughout; Slocombe enjoyed it and didn't mention the word "bollocks" in connection with the film at all. The Wizzers of Soz thought it just the sort of film she'd wanted to see (and she's not a big lover of The Bard). Mrs The Millbrooker and I were both very happy to have seen it.

So, even if you don't think that Willie Shake is up your street, I have to recommend that you give this one a try. It's fun, it's light, it's terrific.

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