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William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999).

April 15, 2008

The Scoop:
Michael Hoffman’s version of Shakespeare’s classic romantic fantasy gives the material the lush, sexy treatment it deserves. Hoffman has transplanted the action to the late 19th century in the Italian countryside, and the beautiful landscape sets just the right tone. An gorgeous looking all-star cast (led by Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale) takes its crack at the Bard, and doesn’t embarrass itself too badly, despite a few difficult performances.

(Difficult performances seem to be par for the course with filmed Shakespeare in the past couple decades, but Hoffman does a good job here of minimizing their impact.)

Still, the art direction is memorable and Hoffman shows more skin and sex than is typical, giving the material a much more modern feel, while still maintaining the spirit of the original text. Definitely a winner, and a film that should be accessible even to those who don’t ordinarily “get” Shakespeare.

Best Bit:
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Side Note:
As the Mechanicals are waiting to perform for the Duke, we see other groups rehearsing their own plays — which include “Oedipus Rex” and “Othello.”

Companion Viewing:
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935).

The original text.
Greg Ferguson drops some essay-ic knowledge.

Take a Look:
The opening scenes:

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