Thursday, July 05, 2007

A midsummer/midwinter night's dream

Wow! Phew! Hats off to Shakespeare, and all who bring him to life again!I have just seen the latest Hollywood version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and found it a rare treat, even in midwinter (I feel sure Shakespeare himself would appreciate the irony of that!) ;-))

As I said before to the wyrdlings, "stellar" cast, with Kevin Kline as Bottom, Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania (yes, their "love-scene" I found well worth the wait!), and Calista Flockhart as Helena (remember the little elfin-faced girl in Sex and the City?), a very suffering suffragette, on a bicycle... Mortals have their bicycles, but the fairies love their stolen gramophones! lol

Brilliantly set at the turn of the 19thC, to bring it slightly forward to our contemporary awareness from Shakespeare's day, and yet able to keep, at the same time, a suitably "period" flavor... ;-))

I found the mud-wrestling scene between Helena and Hermia a stroke of genius, to show mortals at their lowest ebb of degradation, abandonment and confusion... "Lo, what fools these mortals be!" (Puck summed it up so nicely) ;-))

I also found Shakespeare very much inserting himself, as dramatic artist, into this one, in the person of Bottom, the Weaver, note, i.e. the "weaver" of dreams and illusions on stage. He begins yearning for more convincing illusions in the absence of special "FX", hence all the hooha about the "wall", in the "play within a play", which idea seems to me his idea of what we now get in those "movie extras" attached to DVDs: little asides, and glimpses behind the scenes of the actual production! He also, in that "play within a play", has a go at the ludicrousness of having boys sprouting beards, and with their voices breaking, play the female leads... So he obviously also wished for genuine females to play the female leads. And in his own "dream"... Ah! "It shall be called 'Bottom's dream... because it has no bottom!" he hints at serious mysteries (his take on Apuleius' Golden Ass?), thereby rounding out this robust tribute to paganism in all its aspects, from the most commonplace and mundane (Robin Goodfellow and the fairies) to the most esoteric and 'high' magick... You gotta love the 'fairies', a skilful combination of pre-Raphaelite grace, and classical, faun-like robustness (note Puck's own horns AND pointed, elfin ears!). While Bottom himself, with his moustache and little goatee beard, I found strongly, even physically, reminiscent of the bard himself. And of course, "all's well that ends well", and even the actors of their ludicrous little pantomime, still hilarious after all these years (although intending to portray a "tragedy"! lol), got their little "Oscars", in the form of gold medals from the Duke... You get the feeling that mortals, as artists, become most godlike when making complete asses of themselves (and this a long time before Shrek and his annoying sidekick! lol), and the play or the movie itself becomes for the masses what the dream becomes to the individual... I speak in riddles, even to myself, but even Bottom found himself "riddling" to himself on awaking from his dream... And as Bottom presented the first disclaimer in the play within a play, so Puck presented the first disclaimer in the overall play?... How far ahead of his time could a playwright get? (Shakespeare at least as far ahead of his time in this, anticipating the special FX his plays deserved, as Georges Seurat anticipating pixellated computer graphics in the fine arts?) ;-))

What can you not love about it? I would nominate this the "Best Pagan Movie" of the year, if such a category existed! ;-))


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