music friday: atomic shakespeare
spaceballs (mel brooks, 1987)

the tragedy of macbeth (joel coen, 2021)

This is the tenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 10 is called "A Decade in Black and White Week":

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen black and white film made between 2012-2022.

The casting of Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth delighted us, as we had seen her in the role on stage a few years ago. At the time, I wrote:

I couldn’t help but reflect on the ways I’ve experienced Macbeth over the years. Polanski’s version came out about the time I became a film major, and given my lack of knowledge about Shakespeare, my sense of the play was a bit warped. (Another Macbeth I saw and loved was Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood.) Twenty years later, I was an English graduate student taking a course taught by the noted Shakespeare scholar Janet Adelman. I was way out of my league ... the best I could offer in terms of my past connection to Shakespeare was to say I’d seen Forbidden Planet many times. Still, when I want to learn more about Macbeth, as often as not I turn to Adelman. Now, of course, I’m just an old fart with a blog.

I don't think my knowledge of Shakespeare and Macbeth has grown any since then. So I don't have any great insights into this production, which was the first solo directorial work by Joel Coen, who worked with his brother in the past. Denzel Washington and McDormand were fine ... their line readings were intelligent ... but for me, Macbeth shouldn't be played by a 67-year-old man (that's what Lear is for). Mick LaSalle wrote:

It’s interesting, in the abstract, to have a Macbeth and a Lady Macbeth in their 60s. But the age at which people are most likely to kill someone for a promotion is generally a bit younger, as in the 30s or 40s. A Macbeth who has made it into his mid-60s without sticking a knife into the king’s neck is probably never going to do it. He’s more likely to want to kick back on a nice bearskin and have a few tankards of mead.

The black and white film looks tremendous, effectively odd ... I think Orson Welles would have approved. Kudos to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and production designers Stefan Dechant and Nancy Haigh (all three received Oscar nominations). Macbeth is a bit foolproof ... people always like it, even if it isn't considered to be at the level of the classics like Hamlet and King Lear. I still prefer the Roman Polanski version, but this one is an honorable attempt.


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