Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Japanese for "Arden"

We queued As You Like It (2006) after we saw the 1936 version. Finally, Netflix saw fit to send us a copy.

This odd version is directed by Kenneth Branagh. He adapted the play by setting it in Japan, after Westerners began to set up shop. The opening, a ninja attack on a Japanese dance performance, is completely without dialog. In fact, a lot of the dialog is cut out of this. That's not really a complaint. Branagh could have cut all the dialog, and this would have been a beautiful movie.

In fact, it might have been better - There is a bit of a problem with a (more or less) naturalistic acting style, a 19th-century Japanese setting, and Elizabethan English. It's a common problem with this kind of re-framing, and it always took me a little out of the movie: "Why are they talking like that? Oh, yeah, Shakespeare."

Let's see, we have Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) as Rosalind/Ganymede, very fetching as maid or man, and Romola Garai as her sweet cuz, Celia. Their problem was acting as airheads when the play demands it, since they seem like pretty intelligent actors. Daniel Oyelowo was Orlando, another silly role. Brian Blessed is Duke Senior, and his evil brother, Duke Frederick, because of course.

But come, what of the fools? As You Like It has two. Professional fool Touchstone is played by Alfred Molina in a silly wig - he does not play it as broadly as you might expect. I was expecting a lot more bawdiness when he was wooing Audrey (Janet McTeer). He may have even been trying to tone down the sexism.

Jaques, on the other hand, is a fool as a hobby. He is actually a melancholic, and is played ably by Kevin Klein. He is called upon to do the All the World's a Stage soliloquy, which Branagh films through a scrim of branches, as if embarrassed to be caught watching.

We get most of the famous lines, and at least 2 or 3 of the songs. I was feeling like a lot was missing as the credits rolled: What happened to the epilogue? I'll just say, make sure to stay through the credits - but don't expect Samuel L. Jackson.

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