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King Lear (2018)
A production to turn us all into fools and madmen
An appalling directorial vision in which modernisation diminishes this poetic masterpiece of a play into a cheap thriller. The cinematographer seems to be a sixth former that has managed to distract from the greatest speeches in the English language with eyesores. The "muse of fire" Shakespeare sought is available in our age of moviemaking, but here the mise-en-scene is drab and grey, an insult to Shakespeare's passion for grandeur and spectacle. The fine actors such as Hopkins and Scott are ill-used, with whole monologues being cut and poor direction forgoing their talents. Particularly terrible in this is Emma Thompson, whose acting ability has always been in question, giving perhaps the hammiest performance in any Shakespeare film ever put to screen. Fight scenes are awkward, meaning Shakespeare's masterful escalation of tension never reaches the screen. This was a disaster.
Fun vs Hatred
The culture of the 1960s has become an ideology. Images of free living, sexual revolution and colourful drug fuelled adventure blind the masses to the truth of this fractured time. By the end of the decade the counterculture had become corrupted and the hippies were disillusioned with their own quest. It became an exercise in groupthink in which individuality went out the window in place of hatred, destruction and sterility of culture. They all began to dress the same, music began to sound the same, and the status quo that they supposedly despised began to look more appealing than the lack of values the movement now possessed. Tarantino has captured this historical moment and analyzed the different responses to this cultural problem in the form of his excellent characterization. Showcasing the charismatic figure of Charles Manson could have led to a romanticized presentation of hippie lifestyle, one that is already so prevalent in our overly nostalgic culture. Instead, Tarantino opted to show the desperate followers of Manson as impulsive fools caught in a spell of Manson's making that promised them an escape from their failings and depressions. A rag tag bunch of losers with no individuality, resorting to murder on the supposed word of their God. What a moving scene it was when a young girl escaped the corruption of the cult and drove away before the violence, to the anger of the murderous Tex. There is nothing romantic about the hippies in this production, only their nihilistic slovenly ranch lifestyle developed with eerie tension, showcasing the empty shell of their lives which could only have been filled by a manipulative psychopath. The end of the 1960s was the end of the movement for a reason.
In conjuring up these bleak images of the counterculture, Tarantino reveals through the main plotline a deep love for the mainstream culture of 1960s Hollywood. Rick Dalton is a character at a crossroads, a character in crisis. He can choose to continue a career as a blind man, not expressing himself as an actor but succumbing to booze, or become the movie star he always wanted to be. His striving for success and dissatisfaction with life puts him at an antithesis with the cult, as he has his passions and problems but uses cinema as an outlet for his pain, cheering at his violent scenes and putting everything he has into his characters. The use of Sharon Tate as an exaggerated version of this philosophy, a carefree girl in love with literature, music, film who never meant to hurt anyone, reinforces the films view that the counterculture had turned evil, and now the only real option was to return to the mainstream.
The other option of philosophy Tarantino offers is from the movies hero, Cliff Booth. He is an old fashioned bolt of machismo played by a familiar Hollywood star, showing the hippies and the corrupt no mercy when they disrupt his peaceful stance on life. He is willing to roll with the punches of the time, finding happiness in whatever circumstance he finds himself in. This is the direct antithesis of Manson's crew searching for philosophy at every turn and using it to justify both acts of cruelty and hatred of the world outside of their cult. Cliff instead will love easily and express kindness, while still possessing the ability to fight both for kicks and out of necessity. In short a hero who was able to escape the shallow capitalist values while remaining good at heart. He shows that fulfilling the wishes of the hippies to escape the mainstream materialist culture was possible outside of the path Manson took, in which creating a counter-culture cost his followers their innocence.
Tarantino has created a masterpiece, a film with ideals that stand tall against the other throwback movies that reinforce the 1960s as a time of wonder. In the final act of the film, Sharon Tate is spared and the hippies taken down by Rick and Cliff. Ideologies of hatred will always be taken down with force, and after that, peace and innocence can return to our world.