Friday, March 13, 2015

Mock Squid Soup: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

MOCK! and The Armchair Squid are proud to welcome you to Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society, meetings on the second Friday of each month.  We are trying a new format this month, suggested by the wise and wonderful Nancy Mock.  Instead of selecting one film for all to watch, everyone is invited to write a review of any movie they would like to share.  Then a wrinkle: in April, each participant will pick one of the other people's movies to review.  My choice for March is...

Title: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Director: Tom Stoppard
Original Release: 1990
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
When Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead was first staged at the 1966 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it turned its playwright, Tom Stoppard, into a titan of the theatre world practically overnight.  The absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet from the perspective of two minor characters who, at least from their point of view, serve little purpose in the narrative except to die.  I first encountered the play as a high school freshman when one of my best friends played the part of Ophelia.  For her, it was the first role of many that would eventually lead her to drama school.  She jabbered about it constantly.  I was already tired of the play by the time I finally watched it.

I was more receptive when we read the play senior year and it certainly helped that by that time, we'd read Hamlet, too.  Older and comfortably weirder, I was charmed by the playful banter and the philosophical musing.  I'm not sure I qualify as an existentialist but I've always found the idea appealing.  I learned the word avuncular from the play.

I'm not even sure when I watched the film the first time but I loved it instantly.  An American friend in Japan left me her VHS copy when she went back home and I would often watch it over dinner in my apartment.  The movie feels like an old pal at this point.

Stoppard directed the film himself and he's probably the only person who could have done right by the material.  For what was surely a bare bones budget film, the acting is world class.  The titular leads are Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.  It was early in both men's careers but they already had serious indie film cred - Oldman from Sid and Nancy, Roth from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.  The big catch was Richard Dreyfuss, who plays the Lead Player.  Ian Richardson, a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, plays Polonius.  Filming was done in what was still Yugoslavia.

In anticipation of this post, I picked Ros&Guil (as my Ophelia friend used to call it) for Family Movie Night a few weeks back - probably not the best choice in hindsight.  The humor is occasionally a bit tawdry but not too bad.  I doubt my daughter even got most of the jokes, which was the problem.  She didn't understand what was going on.  She was a good sport about it but it clearly didn't work for her.  Maybe one needs to be a jaded teen/twenty-something to get it.  Maybe someday.

To be fair, I found myself a little impatient with the movie, too.  It's still funny but slow at times, a problem not helped by the girl's wiggling (more emotional than physical).  It's also dark - a lot darker than I need at this point in my life.  Being parent, husband and teacher, it's a lot easier to see the clear purpose in life than it was when I was young and proudly independent.  I actually docked a point from my rating.  I'd have thought of R&G as a solid 5 before but not anymore.  I've written a lot on this blog about movies that change for us over time.  The ones I've featured to this point have improved with age.  This one slipped.

Mind you, it's still a strong 4.  You should still watch it if you never have.  I'd be delighted to hear what interesting people think about it.

Next meeting is Friday, April 10th.  I'll post April's blog list tomorrow along with a list of everyone's March choices.  Let's keep this friendly, though.  If no one else's movie strikes your fancy, pick a new one to toss in the hat.  In the meantime, please be sure to visit the other society members this month:


20 comments:

  1. This is an interesting film to pick and one I have not seen but heard so much about. Interesting that it slipped in your ratings. I love Gary Oldman so this is a great choice

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    1. Oldman's wonderful. Of the two, Rosencrantz is the goofier part and Oldman plays the buffoon very well.

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  2. Loved this film - especially the 'tennis' game they play. I should watch it again and see if it still holds up to my memory. However, I can see why your daughter might not have liked it - yet. Give a few years.

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    1. It's definitely worth trying again in a few years. Stoppard's a genius. But one does need to be prepared for his sense of humor.

      My teaching partner and I play the question game with our students. We usually skip the prohibitions on non sequiturs and rhetoricals, though.

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  3. Oh, yeah, I love that movie. It's been a while since I've seen it, but I have been thinking about showing my kids. I think the boys would love it, but I don't think the girl would be patient enough for it.
    It's the coin flipping that does it.

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    1. I love Rosencrantz's quasi-Newtonian discoveries. It's a nice addition to the film version.

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  4. This one movie I have never seen and I am not sure why ?
    I have watched many Shakespeare plays and movies but not this one.
    Think maybe I just forgot about it.
    Because of your review and Gary Oldman, I will add it to my must watch list.

    cheers, parsnip

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  5. I like the questions game in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Its not easy doing this. No repetition, statements, hesitation or illogic, a true fun test.

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    1. No rhetorical questions - that's the toughest, I think.

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  6. I like the questions game in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Its not easy doing this. No repetition, statements, hesitation or illogic, a true fun test.

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  7. I've not seen this movie and feel a little silly. I've seen so many other Shakespeare adaptations. Not sure if it's my pick for next month, but if definitely on my TBW list.

    Sorry to hear it slipped in your ratings, but glad it's still a four. I'm excited to check this out.

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    1. It could never be less than a 4.

      I hope you'll check it out sometime.

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  8. I loved this play! I've got to snatch this one from somewhere and watch it. Hmmmm....This could be my pick for next month. ..gotta check out everyone else. I like the new twist.

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    1. Me, too! It's been fun seeing everyone's choices.

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  9. Back in my video store days, this box was on the shelf in front of the desk. I never had the chance to view it. I've seen some of the stuff Stoppard wrote ("Shakespeare in Love", "Billy Bathgate", "The Russia House") but none of it more than once, upon their initial releases.

    Perhaps I should return your "Keen Eddie" and borrow this....

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    1. You still have a VCR, right? I've still got the VHS copy from my Japan friend. (She's a Facebook friend - she contributed enthusiastically to the organ discussion a couple years back.)

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  10. I have never heard of this movie before. I think it is interesting that you watched it so many times in your independent years and thought of it as a solid 5, but now with time and a different perspective it is a solid 4. I have had that happen with books before. Sounds like a movie worth watching for sure. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Art certainly strikes it differently at various life stages. The best hold up or improve.

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