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-visitor review posted 7/14/2006 by "Torporchair"

This is a great movie! The delivery of the original lines, un-modernized, by 1997 youth and their elders, is fantastic. Leonardo DiCaprio: "Ah, me, what fray was here?" The way he says it will crack you up. Even if you think you don't like Shakespeare, or even if you never heard of Shakespeare, this film still has a lot to offer you. Diane Venora is totally on the ball as Juliette's whacko Mother. There are excellent performances in this film. And John Leguizamo, when he sees Romeo at the Capulet party, he's a howl. He can't resist what appears to be a very subtle, but hilarious, humorous approach to the word, "no" in his short speech of indignation. It's something you have to hear/see. There are a wealth of moments like these.

A completely fresh approach. Shakespeare was brilliant, and he had a great sense of humor. The humor in the film is in keeping, I think, with the spirit of Shakespeare. Shakespeare was no pretentious dog. He did not prance about with his nose in the air like a show dog who couldn’t take a joke. Quite the contrary. Shakespeare used bawdy (fancy nose-in-the air word for racy, sexually suggestive) and violent material to hold the interest of what scholars (haughty dogs? Maybe some of 'em, but scholars are people too, let's not forget such well known and down-to-earth examples as Smith the English {teacher daddy-o}) describe as an unruly, often wasted, demanding audiences. He was a guy in tune with his times, and for a film maker to bring Shakespeare into the current day and make him accessible to youth, here, is completely in keeping with the Immortal Bard's own philosophy, I think. Some say Shakespeare would be/is (he and Jim Morrison are both alive, don’t be fooled) pissed that the guys who wrote the screenplay, Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann, left out many of the lines and attributed some lines to characters who, in the original play, didn't say them, or that they put in a line like "The drugs are quick" without preceding it with "True apothecary" and also took it totally out of context to refer to a hallucinogenic tablet of some kind that pal Mercutio gave Romeo to better enjoy the Capulet party. And they may also maintain that William S. would be/is upset that they put the line well towards the beginning of the play instead of at the end where it belongs. But come, ye critics, be ruled by me. Chill out. It was done for a reason, it was done with malice towards none, and it works.

Me, I think that Shakespeare would be/is not the kind of guy to take himself that seriously, even though by now he would know/knows that we have studied every word he set to paper (or were they still using animal skin as old Jeffrey Joffers {someone said his name is really Geoffrey Chaucer, but you can’t fool me, I saw the movie} did? I would like to know this, wouldn’t you? Others do. When did paper become available to the run of the mill popular playwright of London?) assiduously and that we take him very seriously and revere his ass. No, Shakespeare was too wise to take himself seriously to a degree that would skew his view of reality and make gritty and unpleasant the all-important salve that makes life bearable: humor.

And furthermore, with regard to the trippy effects of the tablet which Romeo is referring to when he says "the drugs are quick", I feel certain that if hallucinogenic drugs were as well known in Shakespeare's day as they are now, he would have incorporated them in his plays to some extent. And here I will get scholarly and make a theory about Shakespeare. Hot DAMN, I feel smart. He liked to say "argo" instead of "ergo". But did they know in those days (not so long ago if you think of it, only 500 years or so) that argot was the element in moldy rye bread that sometimes made whole villages trip the loaf electric? It's a stretch, based on ignorance of the history of chemical wisdom and terminology, but I often wonder if the Bard was talking about the seeming infinite understanding achieved through the ingestion of hallucinogens, and that instead of the normal "ergo" of sober deduction, he liked to playfully use the "argo" of moldy-rye-enhanced revelation. ("Don’t try this at home", as the Reduced Shakespeare Company said, "go to a friend's house." Hargh, and that's funny. And in the newspaper I found that recent controlled-setting experiments {at Johns Hopkins, see Psychopharmacology July 11, 2006} with Psilocybin show that a lot of the "testees" had profound experiences that they felt made them a better person. But, wait, don't go out and buy some acid or magic mushrooms from the local apothecary or mountebank! What always makes me want to lay in a sincere and keen caveat with regard to hallucinogens is that a portion of the testees in this recent study, like a portion of those who trip the body electric in non-laboratory (I'm scared) settings, reported having what can best be described as a bad trip. That is, intense and indescribable despair. Or as one now-defunct celebrated hellhound put it, fear and loathing. And it's not something to make light of, since outside the lab they don’t have syringes of sedatives at the ready (unless you hang out with junkies) and some of those who seek instant enlightenment {and maybe it's a function of a chemical, whether psilocybin, LSD, Peyote, or whatever plethora [show dog word] of new or old drugs I am ignorant of, that provides a state of mind and spirit that would take weeks or months or years of devoted meditation and self control to achieve without the chemical, and thus naturally something that can deliver that kind of immense benefit has a downside to it}do themselves mental harm and I personally know of a friend of a friend who lives on as a mindless dog with a fixed and far-off stare who can not do for himself and relies on the kindness of his family to support and care for him, and this not from a man-made chemical like LSD or some other shit, but from the supposedly benign naturally occurring mushroom Psilocybe Cubensis. That's no bullshit. "Dangerous Drugs" is not a misnomer when it comes to hallucinogens, and anyone who wants to have you believe otherwise is, no matter how many trips they've taken or how much acid or what have you they've ingested at a sitting,

("Dude, man, check it out! Me and Smith ate a quarter page of four-way at the Flying Lizards of Dover concert! That's a hundred hits each, dude, and I saw a day-glo ocean with waves in sets of eight and, like, I knew everything forever. But here I am, all in one piece, except that I find my saliva sometimes falls from my lips without my knowledge, but I know that'll change…. In fact I'm still seeing trails…and I am doing better in geography, but it's all good, …you gotta try some of this four-way, it's like, totally liquid…) is willfully ignoring the truth and being, in my strongly held (but to be fair also one-guy-who-is-after-all-a-dog-of-wax) opinion, irresponsible.)

Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays if I'm not mistaken. And a bunch of Sonnets. He was a hard-working guy. Shakespeare knew (knows) how to turn a phrase. Who can dispute it? He was the master of language, the captain of conjugation. The film does not make light of the tragedy, but the film has the depth to be very funny within the tragic framework. What could be more Shakespearean? And this film, though it omits many portions of the original script in the interest of remaining palatable to modern audiences, remains true to the Early Modern English and brings this gift of the Immortal Bard's brilliance to us on our televisions. We HEAR the language, the words. God DAMN, you got to see it. It's like no other movie.

Most importantly, I believe that many who see this film will take more than a passing interest in the man behind the language and his other works. And if this film sparks an interest in Shakespeare in the hearts of those who did not before have such an interest, then that in itself makes the film priceless. PRICELESS! (Raving would-be scholar wants to convince you to see this film, believes it's a treasure, a gem. Yes, and all must learn to play the piano.) There are moments in this film where you double over laughing. Leonardo DeCaprio in the apothecary scene. He delivers the line with a modern-day world-weary (albeit in a hurry with the posse on his tail) tone and inflection. (And shall I couple timbre?) Sort of like: Look, buddy, I'm in a hurry here, see? So, "let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear as will disperse itself through all the veins that the life-weary taker may fall dead." The surreal settings along with the archaic language delivered with enough howling energy and raw talent to be largely understood by people who never heard anyone speak in Early Modern English make this a hellwagon of a movie. Hell on wheels, in the best sense of the term. I don't know of any other films where one can hear skilled actors deliver Early Modern English lines with conviction in a modern setting. But I hope to find more, and if I find any as good as this film, I'll be very pleased, 'cause this film is great. I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for tonight's let slip movie, the Dogs of Wax, starring Christopher Walken and JoBeth Williams.


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