Sunday, May 22, 2016

I Like It

What's your favorite play by Shakespeare? For me, it's probably As You Like It (1936), although perhaps not this particular performance. It has two clowns, Jaques and Touchstone, lots of songs, romances, and lots of cross-dressing.

If you remember, it is mainly about Rosalind, the daughter of an exiled duke, who flees to find her father in the Forest of Arden. She is pursued by Orlando, but since she is dressed as a man, he doesn't recognize her. Now, in this film, Rosalind is played by Elisabeth Bergner - an Austrian with a broad accent. So you'd think anyone would recognize her by her voice alone. But realism is not this play's strong point. Also, Orlando is played by Laurence Olivier with great zest and elan, but maybe not so much intelligence.

The adaptation was suggested by J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame, so I hate to complain, but they hacked the play up quite a bit to get it down to 90 minutes. It has all the plot points, the 7 Ages of Man soliloquy, the songs and so forth, but seems pretty bare bones. It also seems to emphasize odd points in the play: Was Orlando really so focused on his education? Were Rosalind and Celia really supposed to be so vapid and careless? I suppose so, but in more rounded version, it might not show.

Anyway, the staging was very nice - stagey but with class, lots of running water and an art deco palace. Jack Cardiff was cinematographer and it was edited by David Lean, so it looks good. Rosalind's heavy accent was a little weird, but since she spends most of the play as a woman disguised as a man pretending to be a woman, that's a minor issue.

In the end, I liked the roughly contemporaneous Midsummer's Night Dream better, but this was fun. Now I want to see the Kenneth Branagh As You Like It from 2006, but of course, Netflix doesn't have it available.

1 comment:

mr. schprock said...

Arkangel does an audio version of this that's very good. Their composer put the songs in the play to very nice melodies (the kind that get stuck in your head). Also, there were two characters named Jaques, with one (another brother to Orlando) going by a "Jock-queeze" pronunciation.