Director Michael Almereyda makes cool films in my estimation.
He did the black and white vampire flick "Nadja" a
couple of years back, it being one of the best films I saw at the
Toronto Film Festival that season. He did a great short film
called "The Rocking Horse Winner" in 1997. Both films
are superb examples of storytelling on screen. Both feature
scenes shot in PixelVision, a nasty camcorder technology
developed (and subsequently abandoned) by Fisher Price in the
1980s. Very funky indeed.
And so to "Hamlet." This is a modern dress version
of the Shakespeare play set in New York city. The CEO and King of
the Denmark Corporation (Sam Shepard) has died, his wife (Diane
Verona) has hastily married the King's brother (Kyle MacLachlan),
and it is up to our friend Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) to drive the
story to point where everyone who is marked for death dies.
It's not a bad effort -- the dialog is judiciously pruned to
bring it in in only 121 minutes. The play-within-a-play is
trimmed down to a minimal video-within-a-movie, and the grave
digging scene is hacked to a spare line or two. Which is plenty,
really. In this version, Hamlet is a film student returned from
school on news of his father's death. This gives him an excuse to
tote a camcorder, and for us to see events the way Hamlet wants
us to see them, on tape. It's a clever device which works for the
Best bits: Bill Murray as Polonius. He's really got it in him.
Last year it was "The Cradle Will Rock." Now this.
Murray could have a decent career outside of comedy if he wanted
it. And of course it's always nice to see Kyle MacLachlan in
something decent. He's been in so much doo lately ("The
Trigger Effect", "The Flintstones", and
"Showgirls" to scrape the nadir.)
And like every other version of "Hamlet" I've seen,
it has made me want to see "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are
Guildenstern Are Dead (IMDB)