By Anne Brodie
It’s wonderful the ways artists have interpreted Shakespeare’s Macbeth over the centuries. You won’t find a theatrical performance, film or reading that’s not utterly unique. The lines are unchanging but the ways they can be shaped and enhanced by movement, set design, cinematography, art and costume design are apparently rich ground. The way a passage is delivered, the setting, a facial expression or physical nuance can enrich and reward. The play lends itself to imaginative forays – not Forres! – making it ever fresh, and always thrilling. Such is the case with The Tragedy of Macbeth, from Joel Cohen, working without brother and partner Ethan. He’s created a modern masterpiece that is also ageless, and horrifically thrilling. Coen’s wife Frances McDormand is the deadly Lady Macbeth seized with evil ambition and Denzel Washington the equally guilty Scottish Lord. They plot the murder of King Duncan (Brendan Gleeson) to seize the crown. Three witches – fantastically united into one being, then splitting, then morphing into a flock of crows – played by English actor Kathryn Hunter — prophesied that Macbeth would be the next King of Scotland, a kind of metaphysical permission to carry out their mission. You know the story, one of the best-loved and most familiar of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It’s the way Coen and his actors tell it. Black and white, stark, shadowed sets, winds and howling storms as the pair work up the courage and means to kill Duncan. McDormand looks especially beautiful as the dangerously seductive wife to the man who is not convinced he can do the deed; his hesitation infuriates her and she pushes and pushes him, a deed that if he fulfills it, will have far-reaching consequences and compromise his sanity. Shakespeare’s text comes richly to life in this heartbreaking and vivid retelling. The Tragedy of Macbeth is in theatres on Christmas Day and on Apple TV+ January 14.
Denzel Washington directs a film at the opposite end of the spectrum from Macbeth, a fact-based family drama about a soldier’s tribute to his newborn son. A Journal for Jordan based on the life experiences of the then New York Times editor Dana Canedy follows a young couple in love, First Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan), and Canedy (Chanté Adams), a hard-hitting journalist. She worked hard at her job and her concerned father set her up on a date with King; she reluctantly went along and the two fell in love. Charles was a creative type who enjoyed painting and writing. When he was called to duty following 9/11, Canedy, who was pregnant, gave him a journal to write to their son. It became a declaration of love, a call to courage and notes for a future young Black man living in the USA. “As an African American, you will be judged by your colour; shine and never forget where you came from”. Tragically, King was killed in Iraq in a roadside bomb blast shortly before he was to return home, Little Jordan was six months old but he was given an incredible gift, the journal his late father write for him. Caney became president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship eponymous imprint last year, the first African-American to head a major publishing house. In theatres.
Let’s lighten the mood with Paul Thomas Anderson’s joyous celebration of youth, the zingy, jangly Licorice Pizza. Jangly guitars were the thing when and where the films is set, the San Fernando Valley, 1973 just outside Los Angeles. The music scene’s burgeoning, the culture is rapidly changing and two pals start to hang out. 24-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and her 14-year-old bestie Gary Valentine (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper) star in this winning screwball comedy that breaks all the rules. Back then the idea was peace, love, freedom and music, but Gary’s a businessman – at 14 – through and through. He’s part of his mother’s publicity business and he’s hawking waterbeds with Alana’s help when she’s not working for Tiny Toes school photography. She succeeds at waterbed phone sales thanks to quick thinking and a big personality and they’re at a hit at consumer shows. SO not youth in the early 70s’! Their exchanges are witty and funny and needling – “You think! You THINK things” is her stated reason for being mad at him one day. Nothing happens and but it all happens as the wind their way through this chapter, the beginning of love in a place where everyone’s a celebrity – he also finds time to star in a hit show. Minor blip when risk-taking Sean Penn sets his sights on Alana, and Tom Waits is there to keep things popping. Bradley Cooper shows up as the infamous golddigger turned producer Jon Peters and knocks it out of the park. He’s buying a waterbed for his longtime GF Barbra Streisand! The film is a “scene” from start to finish and you’ll be happy to be part of it. Anderson’s script is based in part on part on the experiences of onetime child star Gary Goetzman’s in Yours Mine and Ours which is why TCM’s showing it now. In theatres.
OK so Netflix’ Emily in Paris Season 2 isn’t brain food, high-minded or even good for you, but hell’s bells, it is FUN. It’s candy-coloured crack – once one starts, that’s it – it’s a binge. Darren Star who doesn’t mess with reality follows American ex-pat Emily who works at Savoir, an elite PR firm in Paris. Emily and her friends Mindy, Camille, Gabriel, her boss Sylvie, colleagues and various fashion designers flit in and out of the frame, wearing clothes designed to get fashionistas pulses pounding with green-eyed jealousy. These girls certainly can’t afford the clothes they wear but again, Darren Star disdains the limitations of reality. Everything is over the top – yacht parties, running the cobbles of Paris in stilettos without a single twisted ankle, drag club adventures, romantic dalliances and ensuing jealousies… It’s all about youth, the city of lights, money, fantasy, internationalism, materialism, St. Tropez, champagne, and most of all, friends and frenemies… and sex. And tiny flats. Season 2 featuring Fashion Week stars Lilly Collins and Ashley Park, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Lucas Bravo, Samuel Arnold, Camille Razat, and Bruno Gouery. I did not know it was illegal to work weekends in France. or is it, Darren Star? And why does everyone want Emily to smoke?
A short edition so we can all log some holiday time!