The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory

The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory

The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory

The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory


The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory models an approach to Shakespeare and cinema that is concerned with the "other" side of Shakespeare's Hollywood celebrity, taking the reader on a practical and theoretical tour through important, non-mainstream films and the oppositional messages they convey. This volume attempts to "escape from Hollywood" and the restricted range of meanings it brings to the phenomenon of Shakespearean adaptation, examining instead the marginal, radical, and experimental uses to which Shakespeare has been put in twentieth-century film culture through four areas of inquiry: "Art of Film: Shakespeare and Early Cinema, " "Film of Art: Shakespeare and Avant-Garde Cinema, " "Film on the Edge: Shakespeare and Counter-Cinema, " and "Film in Class: Shakespearean Cinema and Radical Pedagogy." Along with an introduction that traces the role of Shakespeare in the history of alternative cinema, two articles on the use of Shakespearean film in the radical classroom, and a selective bibliography, the collection includes essays on early silent adaptations of Hamlet, Greenway's Prospero's Books, Godard's King Lear, Hall's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Taymor's Titus, Polanski's Macbeth, Welles' Chimes at Midnight, and Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho.


Lisa S. Starks and Courtney Lehmann

That which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of
the work of art.

—Walter Benjamin, “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

And so art is dead, not only because its critical transcendence is gone,
but because reality itself, entirely impregnated by an aesthetic which is
inseparable from its own structure, has been confused with its own

—Jean Baudrillard, “Simulations”

Shakespeare in the age of cinematic reproduction

Reveling in the hope that the newest art form, cinema, could raise the old masters from the dead, Abel Gance wrote in 1927 that “Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Beethoven will make films … all legends, all mythologies and all myth, all founders of religion, and the very religious … await their exposed resurrection, and the heroes crowd each other at the gate.” Gance's dream of resurrecting Western art through moving pictures captures the promise that cinema offered the early twentieth century. Even more than its ghostly predecessor, photography, the moving picture guaranteed immortality, recording transient moments of life in all their fullness of being. If, at the close of the nineteenth century, photography inspired what Walter Benjamin describes as a “cult of death”—the belief that the dead could be at once contained, transmitted, and preserved through the photographic image—then at the dawn of the twentieth century, cinema audaciously aspired to conquer death itself by capturing real life. Signaling a break not . . .

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