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Much ado about the Bard: The Cinematheque celebrates Shakespeare

May 22, 2013|By Susan King
  • Kenneth Branagh's lavish 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" will screen at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre as part of a celebration of the Bard on film.
Kenneth Branagh's lavish 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare's… (Peter Mountain )

With Joss Whedon's low-budget, modern retelling of Shakespeare's romantic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" opening June 7, the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre is getting into the Elizabethan spirit with a new series, "Much Ado About Shakespeare: The Bard on Film."

The six-day festival opens May 29 with Franco Zeffirelli's boisterous 1967 adaptation of the Bard's battle-of-the-sexes-comedy  "The Taming of the Shrew," one of the better post-"Cleopatra" vehicles starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The film marked the feature directorial debut of Zeffirelli, who would earn a best director Oscar nomination for his next Shakespearean extravaganza, 1968's "Romeo and Juliet."

A "Macbeth" double bill is set for May 30. The program kicks off with Roman Polanski's R-rated 1971 version of "Macbeth," the first feature he made after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis star. Rounding out the bill is Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood," his masterful 1957 samurai adaptation of the Scottish play starring Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada.

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Produced during the height of World War II, Laurence Olivier's stirring Technicolor 1944 version of "Henry V" screens May 31. Olivier, who made his directorial feature debut with the classic, also starred in the historical spectacle. Two years after it opened in England, the film was released in the U.S. and earned four Academy Award nominations, including best film and actor. Olivier won an honorary Oscar for outstanding achievement as an actor/director/producer.

Richard Loncraine's inventive 1995 version of "Richard III," set in pre-World War II England, is the second feature. Ian McKellen stars.

Baz Luhrmann's 1996 "Romeo + Juliet," the Australian maverick filmmaker's hip modernized take on the romantic tragedy, starring his "Great Gatsby" leading man Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, is scheduled for June 1, along with Michael Almereyda's 2000 contemporary re-envisioning of "Hamlet," with Ethan Hawke playing the son of a murdered Wall Street CEO.

Kenneth Branagh's 242-minute star-studded 1996 adaptation of "Hamlet" is screening in 70mm on June 2. The cast seems to include everyone, including Kate Winslet, Charlton Heston and Billy Crystal.

And the festival comes to a close on June 3 with a free screening of the new "Much Ado About Nothing," which is open only to Cinematheque members. Whedon will be on hand to discuss the film.

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