During World War I, in an unnamed country, a soldier named Tamino is sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter Pamina from the clutches of the supposedly evil Sarastro. But all is not as it seems.
A woman who has lost her memory is taken in by a Los Angeles orphanage, and a private eye is enlisted to track down her identity, but he soon finds that he might have a past life connection to her that endangers their lives.
Rosalind, the daughter of Duke Senior (the banished Duke), is raised at the court of Duke Frederick (who is younger brother to Duke Senior and took over his Dukedom), with her cousin Celia (daughter to Duke Frederick). She falls in love with a young man named Orlando, but before she can even think twice about it, she is banished by Duke Frederick, who threatens death if she comes near the court again. Celia, being Rosalind's best friend, goes with Rosalind (who is disguised as a boy, Ganymede) and Touchstone, the court's fool, to the forest of Arden. Upon their arrival in the forest, they happen upon Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando's eldest brother. What follows is an elaborate scheme devised by the cross-dressing Rosalind to find out the verity of Orlando's supposed passion for her, and to further capture his heart, through the witty and mischievous façade of Ganymede.Written by
Originally announced as a Picturehouse Entertainment release, this movie was then picked up by HBO. See more »
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
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The character "Sir Oliver Martext" (he is the "vicar" who is supposed to marry Audrey and Touchstone) appears in this film, but is not listed as Oliver Martext in the credits. The reason for this is that in this film, the vicar is actually the shepherd Corin (who is listed in the credits) in disguise. See more »
The version shown on cable television has been formatted to the aspect ratio commonly used in HDTV production (that is, anywhere from 1.78:1 to 1.85:1), while the version released to movie theatres was released in the typical CinemaScope/Panavision aspect ratio (2.39:1). It is the theatrical version which has been issued on DVD. Since the film was made using the Super 35 format, it was possible to make versions of the film in different aspect ratios. See more »
I have to admit that I don't really care for most of Shakespeare's comedies, which involve huge casts, pairs of lovers, and a lot of talking at chance meetings. So it is with AS YOU LIKE IT, which I suspect for most people will only be really enjoyable as a lot of scattered scenes performed by some really good actors. That said, it's been going on 20 years (!) since Branagh first started directing these Shakespeare extravaganzas, so what point has he gotten to? First, the bad points, then the good points.
After almost 20 years, it's clear that Branagh has almost no new ideas when it comes to moving the camera around. A lot of the shots and gimmicks have been ripped straight from HENRY V and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Sometimes they're simple and effective and the right choices; other times, the recycling is just embarrassing.
Second, Branagh continues to bite off more than he can chew by attempting novel or gimmicky stagings of these venerable old plays as films, a trend that he began with HAMLET (Four Hour Hamlet! No Lines Cut!), carried through to LOVE'S LABOURS LOST (an ambitious failure, but still a failure with a Capital F) and now here with an AS YOU LIKE IT set in Japan, a choice comprehensible only because Branagh explains it to the audience with several title cards. Which means, it's an incomprehensible choice because he has to explain it so much. This is the sort of adventurous staging that works OK on the London stage, where there are 100 Shakespeare stagings a year and this sort of transposition is expected in order to keep things fresh. But on film, it is mostly confusing (although very pretty).
Now for the good things, and they are very much worth noting as hopeful signs for the future of Branagh's grand Shakespearean experiment.
The casting in this film is almost uniformly excellent. Branagh has (mercifully) abandoned showy stunt casting in favor of assembling a diverse cast that actually can act and actually has Shakespearean experience. Kevin Kline, David Oyewelo, the lovely Bryce Dallas Howard, Adrian Lester, Alfred Molina, Romola Garai (a real surprise)... you're in good hands with all these performers, which is not something you could say of a Branagh Shakespeare film since HENRY V. Furthermore, Branagh has stopped the nonsense where anyone can just show up on these films sporting whatever accents they like, regardless of the film's time or place setting (which was tolerable in MUCH ADO, but silly in HAMLET and excruciating in LOVE'S LABOURS LOST). This film is about English characters: so everyone's got an English accent, even the Americans. Thank God. Branagh has also managed a way to cast fine actors of color without trying to make us believe that a black actor and white actor are siblings (MUCH ADO, again).
Bryce Dallas Howard -- dare I say it -- it a better actress and more luminously beautiful and commanding a screen presence than Emma Thompson was in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Even more surprisingly, Branagh has also given his faithful old company of secondary players from the old Renaissance Theatre Company -- you'll recognize them from his previous films -- room to actually act like the professionals they are. Brian Blessed doesn't quite pull it off in a dual role, and well, Richard Briers is ubiquitous in Branagh's films, but Richard Clifford, Jimmy Yuill, Gerard Horan and Patrick Doyle are given a little bit more to do and it's a real asset to the film. These performers assist in giving AS YOU LIKE IT -- dare I say it (dare I even hope it) -- the earthy, humanistic feel that made his HENRY V so very memorable. Which leads one to wonder: WHY did Branagh go for all this flash and glitter with Hollywood stars (starting with MUCH ADO) in the first place, eventually leading to the train wreck that was LOVE's LABOURS LOST? Why didn't he just stick with the approach that worked so brilliantly with HENRY V - still one of the greatest Shakespeare films of all time? For God's sake... BRING BACK THE RENAISSANCE THEATRE COMPANY!!!!
If Branagh has not really grown as a director, this film shows that his creative team -- cinematographer Roger Lanser, production designer Tim Harvey, and composer Patrick Doyle -- continue to do him just as good service as ever, and even seem to kick it up a notch.
The verdict? A problematic film, one that might not appeal to everyone, and decidedly less showy or fun than his popular MUCH ADO... but all in all, a definite step forward for the great Branagh Shakespeare film project. He should get another chance from HBO Films to do another one.
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