February 28th, 2008

Polanski's Macbeth

It says on the packet it was filmed in North Wales. Well, I can see that the beach is probably North Wales but they don't have castles like that in Snowdonia- or do they? I've never been to look so I don't really know, but I'd guess it was Romania or Hungary or somehere like that. It's perched on a hill and it's got pointy roofs like in the Dracula movies. Wherever it is, it's an ace castle.

Odd cast. At least it seems odd in retrospect. Lots of telly actors. And Keith Chegwin as Fleance representing Scotland's glorious future. At one point Cheggers sings an interpolated and anachronistic song- and sings it badly.  And then there's Jon Finch- a great British film star who faded. He's fine here- dark, handsome, screen-filling. Something bad must have happened to him to check his career; I wonder what?

I knew Francsca Annis's brother at school (good bloke!) so I'm always ready to cheer for her. She's lovely. There's a rumour Polanski had them give her a makeover so she looked like Sharon Tate but I hope it's untrue. I don't like the thought of creepy Roman perving all over her. 

I hate Polanski. Always did. Even before we found out he was into slipping qualuudes to 13 year girls. Repulsion is one of the few movies that ever made me feel queasy. Those early films of his- the ones that are most auteurish- Knife in the Water, Cul-de-sac, Repulsion- are empty and nasty and sick. Sick for the sake of being sick- unlike, say, Psycho- where if you listen carefully you can hear the laughter of the cosmos echoing down the corridors.

So I thought I would hate this movie and I didn't. It's quite exciting. The final sword fight is one of the best sword fights ever. And the horsemen with their banners remind me of Kurosawa.  Yes, there's lots of extreme violence and a new, trivialising ending to suggest we're trapped in a cycle of futility but Shakey is essentially wholesome and- while this feels less like one of his plays and more like a medieval epic with an uncommonly good script- having his words on the soundtrack is like there's a brazier in the room and they're throwing herbs on it and aromatic gums and it's making the air all spicey.