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Macbeth (#110 of 8)

Manaki Brothers Film Festival 2015 Pepi & Muto, Macbeth, Land and Shade, & More

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Manaki Brothers Film Festival 2015: Pepi & Muto, Macbeth, Land and Shade, & More

The Weinstein Company

Manaki Brothers Film Festival 2015: Pepi & Muto, Macbeth, Land and Shade, & More

The most rapturous applause at the 37th Manaki Brothers International Cinematographers’ Film Festival in Bitola, Macedonia was for Pepi & Muto, a 15-minute short film by Macedonian director Georgi M. Unkovski. Forced into an early retirement, veteran Skopje-based detective Pepi (Pepi Mircevski) is burdened with showing his younger replacement, Muto (Sasko Kocev), the ropes. Muto, however, is exasperatingly clumsy. If he isn’t stapling paperwork to his own finger, he’s throwing up at the routine sight of a dead body. Pushed to the brim of patience by both his bumbling replacement and callous boss, Pepi throws in the towel, aggrieved by his predicament. When Muto persuades his mentor back into action, however, the two are brought together by a comically violent accident: Muto, apprehending a suspect, falls flat onto a somehow upward-pointing knife. The older cop allows his dormant sympathy to kick in, and after Muto’s brief convalescence in hospital, the duo starts up its own two-man detective agency.

Review: Macbeth at Park Avenue Armory

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Review: <em>Macbeth</em> at Park Avenue Armory
Review: <em>Macbeth</em> at Park Avenue Armory

The Macbeth now playing at the Park Avenue Armory, co-directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh, achieves a remarkable theatrical feat: It makes the experience of entering and exiting the theater more exciting than watching the play itself. That’s not to say that this latest interpretation of Shakespeare’s Scottish Play, in which Branagh plays the titular tyrant, isn’t full of swashbuckling excitement, frightening depictions of murder and madness, and performers at the limits of their vocal and physical capacities. But these are the hallmarks of Macbeth in the modern age, when the 1606 play is typically rendered like a Hollywood action movie, with an antihero knocking off all the bad (well, good) guys until his own violent demise. Ashford and Branagh’s unsurprising Macbeth might have passed without much notice, or complaint, were it not for a set design that reminds us how much more this play can be.

Week with a Wizard, Day 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Week with a Wizard, Day 3: <em>Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban</em>
Week with a Wizard, Day 3: <em>Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban</em>

Early in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), after an unpleasant encounter with a hooded creature known as a dementor, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) looks through the window of the Hogwarts Express, his reflection projected against the rain-soaked night. The image wipes to the exterior of the familiar castle as a children’s chorus sings a rhythmic, medieval-sounding tune with words taken from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We then enter the Great Hall, where a choir of students with frogs in hand concludes the song with the forceful and ominous phrase, “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” This is one of the film’s many small departures from author J.K. Rowling’s source material, which had been followed to a tee in the previous two films. Both playful and sinister, the song (titled “Double Trouble”) turns up in various capacities in the score and permeates the proceedings. But its first appearance in the scene described above boldly announces a new direction in the Harry Potter series. What once felt so clean and mechanical under the even hand of Chris Columbus suddenly bleeds with mystery and mood.

Director Alfonso Cuarón shakes up Columbus’ work with changes extending beyond small alterations or additions to Rowling’s text. Some of these changes were inevitable, such as the replacing the late Richard Harris with Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. But even with a new actor in the role, Cuarón essentially re-imagines the character as more jolly and quick-witted. Innumerable franchises have undergone reboots in the years since, so all these changes don’t seem as significant now as they did then. But for a series that is partially built on maintaining a strict level of sameness, Cuarón pushes the envelope in challenging ways, and the shift in tone and aesthetic deepens the film’s emotional underpinnings.

Sleep No More Haunts Chelsea Warehouse

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<em>Sleep No More</em> Haunts Chelsea Warehouse
<em>Sleep No More</em> Haunts Chelsea Warehouse

One of the season’s biggest theatrical spectacles is not on Broadway. Sleep No More marks the New York City debut of Punchdrunk, a British company known for its immersive theater productions. Filling up a six-floor Chelsea warehouse space with their heady concoction of scenic design and wordless performance, they’ve managed to turn Macbeth inside out. “The Scottish play” is certainly having a New York moment: two Off-Broadway productions, Throne of Blood at Film Forum this weekend. Punchdrunk’s loose adaptation ups the ante, making the audience uniquely complicit in this tale of madness, upheaval, and revenge.

While “interactive” performances like Fuerza Bruta take their inspiration from the club scene, Punchdrunk has adopted the atmosphere of a haunted house—or in this case, a hotel. They’ve replaced cheap scares with the genuine ghastliness of the source material, Shakespeare’s most macabre play. Sleep No More’s primary setting is the McKittrick Hotel. With its noirish early-1930s trappings, this hotel functions as a time warp as well.

Orson Welles’s Macbeth (1948)

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Orson Welles’s <em>Macbeth</em> (1948)
Orson Welles’s <em>Macbeth</em> (1948)

Me and Orson Welles, director Richard Linklater’s zippy new comedy about the 22-year-old Welles’s 1937 Broadway mounting of a Fascist-themed Julius Caesar (and featuring an uncanny performance by Christian McKay as the auteur terrible), throws the Citizen Kane filmmaker’s Shakespeare obsession into relief. Citizen Welles adapted Shakespeare for multiple mediums, often reinventing the same play several times for radio, stage, and film. Some highlights include his Broadway debut, a Haitian voodoo production of Macbeth and an audio production of The Merchant of Venice in which Welles plays the angriest Shylock you will likely ever hear. He also made several masterful Bard film adaptations, including an Expressionistic movie version of Macbeth. For many years the film was in less-than-patchwork condition. Then UCLA’s restoration team went to work.

The result screened at Walter Reade in December (even knowing the film well, I found the clarity and texture of the UCLA team’s efforts revelatory). After a series of commercial failures, culminating in the 1947 thriller The Lady from Shanghai, Welles took on 1948’s Macbeth essentially as a stylistic dare, shooting it in 23 days for cheap. He also made it with his American actors delivering their lines with Scottish accents, which Republic Pictures, horrified, overdubbed for the film’s U.S. release (Republic also murdered over 20 minutes of footage, including a 10-minute tracking shot on the night of Duncan’s murder that outshines Welles’s more celebrated three-minute track in Touch of Evil). While French writers and filmmakers as disparate as Jean Cocteau, André Bazin and Robert Bresson celebrated the film (“I love too much natural settings and natural light not to love also the fake light and the cardboard settings of Macbeth,” Bresson claimed), American critics panned it and U.S. audiences disdained it. Its release so close to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, which won that year’s Best Picture Oscar, didn’t help.??