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Sunday, May 25, 2008

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004)

After his work on a number of films that exceeded expectations (1984/’84; WHITE MISCHIEF/’88; IL POSTINO/’94), prospects for Michael Radford’s version of this oft-filmed play seemed to promise more than a handsomely mounted, standard-issue Shylock whitewash. Whittled down to The Jew and His Bond, it makes Portia’s dashing adventures into something of a sadistic sideshow. Especially as Lynn Collins’ Portia (think Cate Blanchett meets Zoë Wanamaker) proves hard to lens. Al Pacino’s non-legato enunciation as Shylock grows tiresome*, but Jeremy Irons’ Merchant is very effective testing the limits of male bonding masochism. And letting us know just whose "pound of flesh" he’s obsessed with. *Is there any explanation for why so many Italians play Jews and why so many Jews play Italians in so many films?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try the Maggie Smith/Frank Finlay tv production from 1972.

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