365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

283. “Looking for Richard” review

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If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Al Pacino was a theatre student working on his thesis project. The film “Looking for Richard” is fantastically unrefined, full of passion and heart, and one that brilliantly explores the way modern society views Shakespeare, and how to properly present an effective performance.

“Richard III” is a notoriously difficult play, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mere fact that it is listed under the history plays. Despite its reputation as a story of death and war and any number of exciting betrayals, it is still difficult to convince a modern audience that the play is anything but a boring story of antiquated politics. This is exactly what Al Pacino is fighting against in his documentary “Looking for Richard”.

Pacino seeks to tell the story of “Richard III” by playing the lead character himself and by casting a group of excellent actors, hand-picked for their suitability for each role. The film goes back-and-forth between showing scenes from this fantastic play and showing the documentary behind it. Sometimes Pacino is speaking with people on the streets, asking them their feelings on Shakespeare – a young lady grumbling that “it sucks” and a man doing several rather impressive ballet moves stand out in particular – and sometimes he is rehearsing and debating with his fellow actors. Whatever the action, it is always intriguing.

The film is a must-see for anyone studying Shakespeare, from high school students to seasoned veterans of the stage. It brilliantly breaks down the arduous task of not only interpreting the text, which includes things like debating over the effectiveness of a single letter and whether to change it or not, but also of performing it in an approachable and accessible way.

Pacino is a great narrator and guide for this movie. While it is, at first, a little jarring to think that the “Hoo-ah!” guy and Michael Corleone is the one who is waxing poetic over the works of William Shakespeare, it soon thaws to reveal Pacino’s inner Shakespeare geek, which gradually feels just as natural as listening to him telling Fredo that he broke his heart. He goes from being an elevated actor to being almost neighborly in his approach.

“Looking for Richard” is a film that is as enjoyable as it is informative, and it should be required viewing for anyone who has wondered what goes in to keeping Shakespeare’s works alive today.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

July 11, 2010 at 11:42 PM

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