2010. 84 minutes. USA. Directed by Rob Epstein and Friedman Watchdate: 10/9/2010
A terrible disappointment. I haven't seen many movies that squander so much potential in every possible way. Apart from excellent performances by James Franco, David Straithern and Jeff Daniels among others, and the poem itself which is as brilliant is ever, almost nothing worked about this movie. And there were so many good ideas that were so poorly executed! Combining animation with documentary and live action dramatization? Right on, I'm with you. But don't get cheap, generic animation. Don't drop using the documentary footage inserts halfway through the movie. Don't shoot dramatizations devoid of all drama. What a waste of time, especially considering what could have been.
Having designed lights for a stage production of Macbeth, I have seen the play and its component scenes dozens of times or more so I know it backwards and forwards. Of course, I didn't really remember how well I knew it until I watched Kurosawa's version on the big screen (Pacific Film Archive, of course). It's a fairly faithful adaptation but changes the setting to medieval Japan (it's Kurosawa, where else?). I wasn't crazy about how Lady Macbeth and Banquo were handled in this version, but Mifune was great as Macbeth and I absolutely loved the ghostly apparition that took the place of the witches. Also, Macbeth's death by ten thousand arrows is one of the coolest endings of any movie ever. So the movie had that going for it.
This would be my third or fourth viewing of one of the best Woody Allen movies. My roommate put it on, and I didn't plan to watch the whole thing but I got sucked it once again. Alan Alda is beyond superb, delivering one of the best comedic performances ever. "If it BENDS, it's funny. If it BREAKS, it's not funny." Interestingly enough, perhaps the movie's greatest strength and greatest weakness are one and the same: an unashamed willingness to be completely explicit about its themes, aims and purpose.