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January 23, 2007

Coming April 23: The William Shakespeare Blog-a-thon! (Part II)


On this day of Oscar nominations, a thought related to a former winning film . . .

There are Jets, and then there is Jet. Might Stephen Sondheim rewrite his lyrics along the lines of "When you're Jet Li, you're Jet Li all the way, from your first kung-fu kick, to your star in L.A."? Probably not.

One of my favorite versions of Romeo and Juliet is West Side Story. The first time I saw it was on the huge screen of the Riviera Theater in Chicago in 70mm, in 1963. I sort of rooted for the Sharks because they dressed better. I saw it again almost twenty years later on pan and scan video tape and was more aware of which parts of the film were directed by Jerome Robbins and which parts were directed by Robert Wise. The last time I saw it was one time when it was broadcast on TCM. I had to wonder if the character of Maria was really dumb when Natalie Wood asks Richard Beymer what the name Tony means. It's the kind of line that makes you wonder if Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein or Arthur Laurents actually knew any Puerto Ricans.

Certainly West Side Story has had influence both in making Shakespeare palatable for a young audience. But of the several versions and variations of the story, I can't think of a Romeo tougher than Jet Li. Li's own martial arts moves go beyond the acrobatics of Russ Tamblyn. Unlike Natalie Wood, Aaliyah was an actual singer. Even though he never said it, Jet Li's roles are of characters who exemplify the words, "Fight till the last gasp." As for Li's character in Romeo Must Die not actually named Romeo, as Shakespeare wrote: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title."

Posted by peter at January 23, 2007 08:26 AM


Curse of the Golden Flower has been moved up to a February 1 release, though I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, because I doubt it'll be the "soundtrack"/English-subbed version. However, the dubbing for Buena Vista releases tends to be decent, so if it has subtitles it won't be a total loss.

Can you send me an e-mail? I've got a couple questions I'd like to ask.

Posted by: Curtis at January 24, 2007 06:20 AM