Monday, April 28, 2008

Merchants and Menace

118. The character of Shylock has come to dominate the discourse surrounding Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice that it tends to obscure a couple of things about the play. First, the merchant of the title isn't Shylock. Second, the play is a comedy. Regardless, it's a weird, ungainly thing. Just as Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy with the structure of a comedy (with it's series of coincidences driving the action), The Merchant of Venice is a comedy with the structure of a tragedy. Were he but a little more sympathetic to Shylock--and given the attitude towards Jews in Elizabethan England, it's amazing that it's as sympathetic as it is--Shakespeare might have transformed the play into an outright tragedy, and none of the fiddling with a cast of largely odious characters. Michael Radford's movie version from 2004 reflects all of this. Al Pacino is an interesting choice for Shylock, and he acquits himself well enough in the role. Neither Jeremy Irons as Antonio (the title character) or Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio are well cast, but they serve well enough for being major characters shoved off the stage by the play's brighter lights. Lynn Collins is a sublime Portia, who acts as a bright, shiny balance to Shylock, especially in the courtroom scene (She's really a Texan? No way!). The "quality of mercy" speech is just as ineffectual as always (Shylock: "screw that, I want my pound of flesh"), but it sounds delightful here. Radford, for his part and like many an interpreter before him, tends to forget that the play is a comedy for long stretches, and punctuates this with a borrowing from The Searchers near the end of the movie. The Bard has fared much worse with far easier plays, so we'll call it good, I guess.

119. Shinya Tsukamoto's Gemini (1999) is a fairly diagrammatic movie for all its cinematic freak out. A variant on the doppelganger theme, it's constructed out of flashbacks in a fairly conventional manner. What it does indicate, however, is that the influence of Seijun Suzuki on the Japanese horror films of the last decade is deeper and stronger than I had assumed. This movie seems like a lost fourth installment of Suzuki's Taisho trilogy, though it's not nearly as elliptical.

From The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, volume 5, disc one, "Bugs and Daffy":

120. "14-Carrot Rabbit" (1952, directed by Friz Freling)
121. "Ali Baba Bunny" (1957, directed by Chuck Jones)
122. "Buccaneer Bunny" (1948, directed by Friz Freling)
123. "Bugs's Bonnets" (1956, directed by Chuck Jones)
124. "A Star is Bored (1956, directed by Friz Freling)
125. "A Pest in the House" (1947, directed by Chuck Jones)
126. "Transylvania 6-5000" (1963, directed by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble)
127. "Oily Hare" (1952, directed by Robert McKimson)
128. "Stupor Duck" (1956, directed by Robert McKimson)
129. "The Stupor Salesman" (1948, directed by Arthur Davis)
130. "The Abominable Snow Rabbit" (1961, directed by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble)
131. "The Super Snooper" (1952, directed by Robert McKimson)
132. "The Up-Standing Sitter" (1948, directed by Robert McKimson)
133. "Hollywood Daffy" (1946, directed by Friz Freling(???))
134. "You Were Never Duckier" (1948, directed by Chuck Jones)

I don't really have a lot to say about this lot except that this disc seems to be less heavily weighted towards Chuck Jones than previous Bugs discs. Jones gets six cartoons to four each from Freling and McKimson, plus one from Arthur Davis. There's still a slant, but it's not as pronounced as in the past. A couple of the late Jones cartoons show a transformed animation style that barely resembles the cartoons Jones et al. were making a mere ten years earlier. A couple of these are pretty quotable ("Hasan Chop!"), but none are in the first rank of Bugs or Daffy cartoons. "Hollywood Daffy" doesn't have a director listed on either the print or the IMDB, but I'm pretty sure it's a Freling.

1 comment:

DeAnna said...

Heh. I've also been up to my eyeballs in Shinya Tsukamoto films. Scarecrow has a 2for1 day, so I try to make it there to rent at least 2 movies a week. Well, new releases are exempt so I have to be creative. Well, I own two of Tsukamoto's films, A Snake in June and Vital. I rented Tetsuo some time ago and after delving pretty heavily into Japanese film, it occurred to me that my favorites might be movies by Tsukamoto. After my statement a week ago, Nate got me Adventures of Lightening Rod Boy and TetsuoII. Oh my, Tetsuo II kicked so much ass. I have Tokyo Fist and Bullet Ballet for this week.

I haven't seen Gemini yet. but I'm still totally infatuated with Tsukamoto.