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.
Brennan, Mary. Film.com. Internet. On Line. 1996. URL: http://www.film.com/reviews/index.jhtml?review_url=/film-review/1996/9006/15/default-review.html
Dre. Girls on Film. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL: http://www.girlson.com/film/navigation/index.html
Jahiel, Edwin. Rec.arts.movies.review. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL: http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/65/6541
Renshaw, Scott. Rec.arts.movies.review. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL: http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/61/6195
Schwartzbaum, Lisa. "Great Shakes." Entertainment Weekly. 1 November 1996. http://www.ew.com
Zimmer, A. Syracuse Times Online. Internet. On-line. 1996. URL: http://newtimes.rway.com/films/richard.htm
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