What a little-known gem! Actor Al Pacino initiated this film to increase the awareness and appreciation of Shakespeare. His intent was to merge the making of a Shakespeare play, with the play itself. So in this documentary all the embryonic stages of play are woven unfinished into the finished play. For instance, the table readings for the cast, the rehearsals, the director’s research, the arguments with the producer about how to stage it, are all mixed into the final sequence of this Shakespeare movie. It’s a wonderfully weird hybrid, which maximizes the medium of film. The brilliance stems from Al Pacino’s experience as a Shakespearean actor, where he discovered that the making of the play provided far more understanding of the text than the audience ever got, so let’s let the audience in on the construction and development. As the actors grapple with the play’s text — what does this old word mean? Why does the character do this at this moment? What is going on in this scene? — they (and the audience) begin to unravel the play’s meaning. The play in this case is one of the most challenging of all Shakespeare plays, Richard III. There’s tons of people, with multiple names, cross-cutting relationships, and lots of historical references. Usually, audiences are lost. However, in Looking for Richard, you get centered and oriented as the final film switches from full period-costume location, to location scouting, to the same actors reading around a table and then debating what it meant, then switching to an annotation by a Shakespearean expert, or insightful comments by other Shakespearean actors, then a visit to a historical footnote, and then back to the ongoing scene on stage. Looking for Richard is the most intense and rewarding Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. Heaven would be one of these factuals for everyone of Shakespeare’s plays.
Looking for Richard
Directed by Al Pacino
1996, 112 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental
Read more about the film at Wikipedia
Rent from Netflix
Available from Amazon