Looking for Richard - * * * 1/2*

What is Shakespeare? Why are his works so reknowned, and why is it so difficult to successfully deliver one of his plays to an American audience? These are a few of the questions Al Pacino poses and attempts to answer in his brilliant documentary, Looking for Richard. He takes as his subject, Richard III, Shakespeare’s most performed, but least understood play. Looking for Richard not only presents portions of the play, but also delves into its meaning, as well as the issues involved in staging a production of Richard III to an American audience largely ignorant of the historical background necessary to fully comprehend the play. Pacino wears three hats here, as director not only of this film, but of the production of Richard III within, as actor struggling to understand the character and the play, and as Richard III himself. He has gathered together a wonderful group of actors for the play (including Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, Estelle Parsons and Aidan Quinn), as well as countless interviews with Shakespearean actors and scholars (including Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, John Gielgud and Vanessa Redgrave). These are all spliced and intercut together with the performance of the play, creating the most lively and entertaining documentary in a long while. He manages not only to capture the essence of the play, but spells out the historical perspective, and creates a Shakespeare film that can truly be consumed by the masses…if only they weren’t too afraid of Shakespeare to approach the film.

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