Friday, June 9, 2023

Sir Larry still kills it as King Dick

I feel like such a fucking idiot when I watch some Shakespeare - I can't keep up with the iambic pentameter; I have no idea who half the characters are, even if they play a major part; and all that history is a mystery.

But the stories are so fucking solid, even after hundreds of years of adaptation and reinterpretation. We might not all be the prince of Denmark, but we all know how it feels to be young and unsure. We might not all be in fair Verona, but we've all our hearts broken. We might not be a hunchbacked psychopath in line for the throne, but we've all felt bloody unappreciated.

So I go to plays and watch the movies and feel a little bit smarter every time I do. And every now and then, I see a classic adaption like Laurence Olivier's adaption of Richard III and it still absolutely fucking kills.

It's one of the most famous and celebrated interpretations of the bard, but the most I ever knew about it was that Johnny Rotten wold often cite Sir Laurence's performance as an inspiration for his own stage act, and you can definitely see it.

It's 70 years old, but the energy and colour that Olivier brought to the story still has power, and the whole thing is still brutal, with children murdered on camera (by a future Doctor Who, no less), corpses are thrust into wine barrels and a large amount of folk are getting hacked to death. This is the classics, all right.

Ian McKellen's 30s fascist portrayal is still my favourite King Dick, but Olivier's is absolutely barking, playing to the rafters to his literal last breath, when he's not sneaking his caustic asides to the audience. The part where one of his unfortunate young nephews makes fun of his hump, and seals his fate, is all there in Olivier's hideous glare. It's all there on screen, like the long shot of DeNiro in Goodfellas - where you see him decide that a fucking mook has to go - and Olivier does it in a split second.

I still don't understand all the politics, or how King Richard won and lost support for his cause, and I still can't keep up with that patter, but an apocalyptic-level glare like that is always easy to understand.

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