Looking for Answers in Looking for Richard

analytical Essay
1832 words
1832 words

Looking for Answers in Looking for Richard

Al Pacino's "Looking for Richard" is an unusual film. It is a documentary about the complexities of Shakespeare, the performing of the play Richard III, and the ignorance of the average American regarding Shakespeare. The unusual nature of the film - it's similar to a filmed Cliff-notes version of the text - provokes wildly different reactions from film buffs, critics, and Shakespeare purists. A perusal of five different reviews of the film show such variant descriptors that range from Mary Brennan's comment that the documentary is "decidedly narcissistic" to Edwin Jahiel's comment that the film is an "original, mesmerizing exploration." The rather wide incongruity between the reviews leads to an interesting juxtaposition of its critiques, as we examine the reasons "Looking for Richard" incites such strong responses from its proponents and detractors.

A summarized look at each of the reviews reveals the wide range among the criticisms. The first review, by Mary Brennan and posted on the Film.Com web site, is generally positive, despite the aforementioned quotation that the documentary is "decidedly narcissistic." Brennan found herself enjoying the film despite herself, enjoying the "extraordinarily riveting" way the film dissected Shakespeare. However, every endorsement of the film is subsequently balanced by a disparaging remark about it. Brennan calls some of the rehearsals "thoroughly entertaining," then says that the endless scenes of Pacino "mugging into the camera... rapidly lose their charm." Still, she seems to enjoy the film despite its perceived weaknesses. Al Pacino's posturing is "exasperating but likable," and the whole package is enjoyable. Brennan seems to...

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...r those like me, however, who enjoy Shakespeare but perhaps do not grasp it as well as we hope to on the first couple of readings, it worked ideally.

Works Cited

Brennan, Mary. Internet. On Line. 1996. URL:

Dre. Girls on Film. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL:

Jahiel, Edwin. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL:

Renshaw, Scott. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL:

Schwartzbaum, Lisa. "Great Shakes." Entertainment Weekly. 1 November 1996.

Zimmer, A. Syracuse Times Online. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL:

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how pacino's "looking for richard" provokes wildly different reactions from film buffs, critics and shakespeare purists. the wide incongruity between the reviews leads to an interesting juxtaposition of its critiques
  • Analyzes how mary brennan's review of "looking for richard" is positive, despite the quote that the documentary is "decidedly narcissistic."
  • Analyzes how a critic views the goals of pacino's film based on how well he or she believes the film achieved these goals.
  • Analyzes how dre, a girls on film critic, conjectures that pacino's goals for the film were to present shakespeare tributes, explore the acting process, and portray richard iii.
  • Analyzes how the popular girls on film web page presents twenty-something young women discussing movies. the critiques are well-written and thoughtful, and should not be discounted because of their readers or writers.
  • Opines that dre's praises tell us that pacino achieved his goal without question, if his main goal was to educate a contemporary audience that really doesn't know shakespeare well.
  • Opines that pacino was successful in his ultimate goal, but other critics felt this goal was not approached from the best angle.
  • Analyzes how newsgroup critic scott renshaw saw an inherent contradiction in the way pacino approached his work.
  • Opines that pacino's ego excesses throughout the film are equal to the self-indulgence of barbra streisand’s ‘the mirror has two faces’.
  • Opines that pacino getting his muse here did not seem relevant to the story of richard iii as the actors fleshing out their characters in rehearsals.
  • Analyzes how mainstream publications reaped high praise on pacino's film despite its weaknesses. the most mainstream critic, lisa schwarzbaum, gave it an a-.
  • Analyzes how the highest praise for "looking for richard" comes from newsgroup reviewer edwin jahiel, which focuses on what the goal of the film was.
  • Opines that the film was a success, but pacino was overbearing at times, and the cutting of actor's scenes was disappointing.
  • Explains that renshaw, scott, and jahiel, edwin.
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