Saturday, July 6, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

The bureau chief finds films of Shakespeare's comedies problematic. It turns out that comedy is not as timeless as tragedy and 400 year-old jokes are often not funny to contemporary audiences. The Shakespearean clowns are a particular example of this problem. If the film maker can't find a way to make what they're saying clear, without changing their lines, their scenes become dead spots in the film. This was the case in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film of "Much Ado About Nothing" in which Michael Keaton played Dogberry, the head of the Night Watch.

Joss Whedon, who adapted and directed the latest film of "Much Ado", solved the clown problem. Nathan Fillion plays Dogberry as a thick-bodied middle-aged dunce of a Police Chief who tries to look wise by endlessly taking off and putting on his mirrored shades. With the exception of one female cop, his deputies are on the mental level of the cops in "Reno 911!" The shorthand works.

Whedon cast two male parts with actresses and also starts the film with a scene without dialogue that indicates that the lead characters Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) were lovers in the past. He shot the film in his own house, with an excellent company of non-stars, in just 12 days. The black and white cinematography looks great. The actors wear modern clothes---the women in dresses and the men in suits with semiautomatic pistols in shoulder holsters. Those things and the cool music make it seem that the film is taking place in the 1960s. I don't know why that seems appropriate.

The film takes a little while to get going but ends up being amusing, exciting and even moving. I recommend it.

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