Looking for Richard (1996)

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Released 4-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 107:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Al Pacino
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Penelope Allen
Gordon MacDonald
Madison Arnold
Vincent Angell
Harris Yulin
Alec Baldwin
Al Pacino
Timmy Prairie
Kevin Conway
Larry Bryggman
Kevin Spacey
Estelle Parsons
Winona Ryder
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
French Titling
Italian Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Who gets Shakespeare? No, seriously, who actually gets him - can you sit down with a tattered copy of Twelfth Night, Hamlet or indeed Richard III, the subject of Looking for Richard, and delve headlong into the iambic pentameter and thees, thous and arts without flailing around like an aggrieved year 10 student desperately cramming the night before their English exam? For it seems that even some of the great actors of our time - Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Rosemary Harris, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Kline, all featured in Pacino's fascinating documentary, at some stage struggled with the complexity, rhythm and sheer genius of the Bard of Avon. People seem to have a vague awareness that Shakespeare is brilliant simply because his work is so difficult, rather than the true essence of its greatness - the fact that his plays are some of the most potent and juicy tales of murder, despair, madness, corruption, conspiracy, lust, love and loss ever conceived. His work puts the comparatively ham-fisted plot convolutions of Lost or The O.C. to shame - and there can be little doubt that there is at least a dash of Shakespeare in all good films and TV shows made today.

    Richard III is considered by many to be one of Shakespeare's most impenetrable stories. It is dense with characters and plot (and plotting) and features the deformed gimp-like Richard as its chief protagonist. It forms an integral part of Shakespeare's historical plays, as opposed to his more widely known tragedies - like Macbeth and Hamlet, and comedies (A Midsummer Night's Dream) - all of which have been filmed at least once, with varying degrees of success. Richard III too was turned into a brooding 1995 production, overseen by the great Ian McKellen, which transposed the story to a Nazi-controlled England. What is unusual and terrific about this documentary, however, is the fact that whilst we see much of the play performed, it is from different perspectives and angles, and at different levels of production and rehearsal. We get a backstage, green room, street level, touring pass to the play. Coupled with it also are invaluable scenes between the actors and creative team nutting out how to best serve the story but enable a modern day audience to get a handle on it. Thankfully we don't see reams of film devoted to toffy-nosed British actors gushing about how much they adore Shakespeare and how important his work is. Instead we are presented with passionate, scruffy-looking actors arguing, stumbling over lines, flicking desperately through the play's pages, and when turning to face the camera - venting as much frustration as genuine and obvious love for their craft and the play.

    A point is made early in the documentary that Americans (and it must be true for actors from anywhere but England) have this reverential fear of Shakespeare and a belief that they are somehow not worthy or able to perform it. What is tremendous to see is that whilst purists may cringe at a Brooklyn Hamlet or Beverly Hills Ophelia, the energy of the performances and the power of Shakespeare's language have a way of cutting through the centuries. Yes it still remains a challenging prospect trying to translate the Elizabethan enunciations, but as we learn from Looking for Richard, it is well worth it.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Unfortunately, but not entirely unexpectedly, the video transfer is not the best. Much of the documentary looks to have been filmed on handheld cameras, so there are some noticeable problems. Funnily enough though, the added grit and grime was somewhat symbolic of the film's approach to Shakespeare - a subject too often dealt with in bows and whispers.

    It is presented at approximately 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement, which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Colours are a little drab, with blacks predominant in many scenes. Skin tones are reasonable.

    Levels of sharpness aren't terrific. There is a smattering of grain throughout, owing to some poorly lit interiors.

    Compression artefacts intrude on occasion, whilst other video artefacts are kept to a relative minimum. There are some instances of aliasing and edge enhancement but these aren't a major concern.

    The print is not the cleanest, but none of the artefacts are particularly worrisome.

    All in all - serviceable, little more.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is decent but relatively unexciting. We have three tracks - the English 5.1 Dolby Digital one being listened to in its entirety, with sampling of the other two Dolby Stereo dubs - one in French, the other in Italian.

    There were no audio sync problems or glaring dropouts or blemishes.

    Dialogue was, for the most part, clear and easy to understand.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are given a little to do, adding some ambience and depth to proceedings, but this is by no means a demonstration track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Difficult to say as information on the yet to be released Region 1 disc is sketchy, but I would suggest that we may miss out on some extras - but then we may not. Region 4, for the moment...

Summary

    Have a look at this engaging and unique documentary.

    The video is passable, but marred by problems.

    The audio is fine.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Friday, March 18, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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