Friday, October 26, 2007

Two ravishing things

1. My friend Helen Hill's animated films at the Anthology Film Archive on Wednesday night, in the most gorgeous and lovingly restored prints (many of the films were damaged in Katrina).

2. The Wooster Group Hamlet at the Public Theatre. Good but not great, I'd say, and in a way surprisingly conventional. The acting is consistently superb, and the production as a whole hangs together well, but it didn't somehow magically gel into transcendence (and there were some distracting features--Fischerspooner?!?).

The live theatre piece is staged against the backdrop of Richard Burton's 1964 Broadway Hamlet, "recorded in live performance from 17 camera angles and edited into a film that was shown for only two days in 2000 movie houses across the United States" (I am quoting the program). "The idea of bringing a live theatre experience to thousands of simultaneous viewers in different cities was trumpeted as a new form called 'Theatrofilm,' made possible through 'the miracle of Electronovision.'"

But insofar as it works (and the technology is really beautiful--the digital reediting on the main film, figures erased or obscured in very suggestive ways, is magical, and the use of screens and images more generally very effective), it works for simpler reasons than this. I enjoy the Wooster Group idiom--this is a group of actors who have worked together over many years, in tandem with Liz LeCompte, to come up with a whole vocabulary that is extraordinarily effective and quite non-naturalistic in rather mesmerizing ways. The production's quite accessible, too, I think. But I am not sure it really says anything about ghosts and presence and acting and the languages of the body that an altogether more conventional production might have been able to--not that a production needs to be in this sense authoritative, there is no harm in feeling that one is watching one of many possible interesting Hamlet interpretations, only I would like just a little bit more oomph...

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