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Coen premieres a stark 'Macbeth,' with Denzel and McDormand

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By JAKE COYLE

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Looking forward to this. The director and leads are all multiple Oscar winners and top of their game. And it’s Billy Shagspear.

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Shakespeare might be "not of an age, but for all time!", but he doesn't translate well to the screen from the playbooks of Hollywood moguls. Still, since "hope springs eternal in the human breast", if Joel Cohen with McDormand and Washington have "screwed up their courage" (and talents) "to the sticking place" they'll not have failed with this latest attempt (especially if it inspires people to return to the inexhaustible, infinite universe of the Bard and beyond.)

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It's a matter of opinion, but mine is that there have been some very good movie adaptations of Shakespeare plays, some of them pretty freestyle... Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo and Juliet, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing starring Emma Thompson, Mel Gibson as Hamlet directed by Franco Zeffirelli, the 1953 MGM version of Julius Caesar starring Marlon Brando... just because it's mainstream doesn't have to mean it's going to be rubbish - although the BBC-TV series of every Shakespeare play from the 1970s-80s remains the towering achievement in the filming of Shakespeare plays.

So with great actors like Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, and directed by Joel Coen, I reckon this Macbeth is really worth a look.

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Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet used a helicopter to drown out and cancel one of Shakespeare's most important political (and topical) scenes of young Romeo persuading the old, impoverished apothecary by appealing to his dire state of poverty to sell him an illegal drug the sale of which carries the death penalty:

ROMEO

(gives APOTHECARY money)

There is thy gold, worse poison to men’s souls,

Doing more murder in this loathsome world,

Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.

I sell thee poison. Thou hast sold me none.

Farewell. Buy food, and get thyself in flesh.

Unsurprisingly, no Hollywood version, as far as I know, has yet had the cojones to put Will's powerful words exposing the corruption of money on screen.

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The trailer is promising, as is the premise of older and more desperate Macbeths.

I’ve been a fan of Coen, his absent brother and McDormand since Blood Simple. Glad to see this is also rated R, keeping in line with Shakespeare’s and the Coen’s bloody heritage. Brendan Gleeson too!

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Not so long ago I caught up with Justin Kurzels Macbeth with Michael Fassbinder and Marion Cotillard as the leads.

Quite a brutal, dark portrayal - which is how I always have held the story - brilliantly executed and widely acclaimed.

It was only the 2nd movie he had directed - the 1st being the Snowtown Murders.

Interesting to see the master Joel Coens interpretation after what 30+ movies?

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u_s__reamerSep. 25  09:46 am JST

Shakespeare might be "not of an age, but for all time!", but he doesn't translate well to the screen from the playbooks of Hollywood moguls. Still, since "hope springs eternal in the human breast", if Joel Cohen with McDormand and Washington have "screwed up their courage" (and talents) "to the sticking place" they'll not have failed with this latest attempt (especially if it inspires people to return to the inexhaustible, infinite universe of the Bard and beyond.)

Macbeth is truly for all time and can translate in so many ways. 10 years ago in Libya (not Scotland) the people with allies (not English mercenaries but NATO) overthrew their Macbeth (Qaddafy). The original Bard play is based on actual history and it repeated itself again time after time. And this looks like an interesting idea too, with two greatly acclaimed actors.

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In this age of diminishing attention spans and the ever-present lure of the smartphone and the game, it's crucial that gifted artists try to keep the Bard alive in the minds and imaginations of a generation given to dismissing even a genius such as Shakespeare's to the status of the work of "dead white male" and therefore unworthy of attention. It has to be done with respect, though, and if, as reamer points out above, crucial passages of verse are lost, something else, some other quality, has to make up for that loss. I'd argue that the films I mentioned in my first post all possess that and have helped to keep Shakespeare relevant. For purists (and I use that word in its non-pejorative sense) there are always quality productions such as the monumental BBC-TV series. Their A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Helen Mirren as a Titania worthy of making an ass of yourself over, is truly magical, and their treatment of lesser-known plays (at least to me) such as Richard II, is a revelation.

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 10 years ago in Libya (not Scotland) the people with allies (not English mercenaries but NATO) overthrew their Macbeth (Qaddafy). 

Which was not well thought out, resulting in plunging Libya into another "Shakespearean" tragedy, a "Macbeth Redux", if you will, or just "another fine mess" off ours (Laurel & Hardy), though no laughing matter for the people trying to stay alive in the wretched, "rotten state" of "post-MacQaddafy" Libya.

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u_s__reamerToday  08:05 am JST

 10 years ago in Libya (not Scotland) the people with allies (not English mercenaries but NATO) overthrew their Macbeth (Qaddafy). 

Which was not well thought out, resulting in plunging Libya into another "Shakespearean" tragedy, a "Macbeth Redux", if you will, or just "another fine mess" off ours (Laurel & Hardy), though no laughing matter for the people trying to stay alive in the wretched, "rotten state" of "post-MacQaddafy" Libya.

Right you are. In the Bard play MacDuff takes over and the play ends happily. In Libya several Islamists fanatic factions, which Qaddafy always suppressed sprung into action. Libya has a democratic government but it isn't strong. Earlier this year a truce was signed so maybe hopefully the Second Libyan Civil War is over. Even then there's a lot of rebuilding to do, and there's that refugee-trafficking racket to fight. Refugees fleeing civil and ethnic wars thruout central Africa have fallen victim to that evil activity while crossing Libyan territory to seek refuge in southern Europe. Never mind the refugees fleeing ISIL and the Syrian civil war.

But how could anyone've been prepared for that? The Libyan rebels had one cause in 2011, get rid of the terrorist dirtbag. You can't always predict what comes after that. Look at Iraq after Saddam Hussein got deposed, look at Somalia after Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. 'Shakespearean' tragedies for sure.

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