Nick C. Goins Jr.
The Pissed Take - The Tragedy of Macbeth
Release Date 14Jan2022
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH -OR- THE TRIUMPH OF JOEL *AKA* Fair is foul, and this is not... foul. It's pretty MF fantastic.
I really liked "The Tragedy of Macbeth", the latest screen interpretation of WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR's 400 year old play. MACBETH or THE TRAGEDIE OF MACBETH, believed to have first been performed on stage in 1606, is a tragedy set in Scotland about the devastating effects of overreaching ambition and the corrupting influence of the pursuit of power. This play and subsequent screen adaptions have consistently drawn some of the greatest thespians of the day to its roles.
There is nothing new in that regard to JOEL COHEN's (without the bro) 2021 screen effort, as he has DENZEL WASHINGTON (Lord Macbeth) and FRANCIS MCDORMAND (Lady Macbeth) digging into their roles with all of their years of experience being brought to bear.
The acting is superb by all, with Denzel Washington giving a performance as the doomed Thane that could, if he so wished, cap his career with. Francis McDormand equally holds it down as the scheming Lady Mac. The rest of the cast is very good in what is essentially a recitation of the text (more on that later) though KATHRYN HUNTER as the "Weird sisters/Old Man" absolutely steals every scene she is in.
I say this is a recitation of the bard's text, because there is zero change of the original text. Where this movie shines, besides the great performance, is in the presentation.
The movie is presented in a stark, moody black and white. Framed in 1.37:1 academy ratio that, along with the striped down, impressionistic sets by STEPHAN DECHANT and team, the costumes by MARY ZOPHRES, the cinematography by BRUNO DELBONNEL, music by Cohen bros regular CARTER BURWELL, and finally sound design by CRAIG BERKEY, this film is a masterwork of presentation and (with the great performances) the reason to see this movie.
The tight close ups, the shadowy, minimalist design, all of it creates a palpable and consistently ominous tone that is pretty sweet.
This movie, along with the reliable Cohen clockwork, is almost a horror movie, and I believe why I enjoyed it more. This movie does have a few small problems...
The relationship between DW and FM as the lord and lady doesn't sell. They're both superb actors and they bring it in this movie, but they simply do not connect as people who probably fucked and lived same house for years. The aforementioned "horror movie" impression is just that, and the film would have benefited more from going more deeply down it's German impressionistic rabbit-hole. As such, the movie occasionally seem a tad bit unfocused. NONE of these are deal breakers in the least and more a missed opportunity at worst.
A NOTE: There are some who bemoan the casting of "non-whites" in a play set in 11th century Scotland, with characters based on historical characters. To them I say: Go suck start a canned fart right off the MF planet, child! If there is any author EVER who's work warrants reinterpretation, it's WILLIAM RAMAFLAMIN' SHAKESPEAR!!! A dude who's work is more about the meaning of the text than who is expounding the meaning.
This film is a visual deconstruction that truly utilizes the "Best person for the job" ideology. Though, I submit not everything will be to everyone's taste, nothing ever really is- nor should it be. QED? QED.
SEE IT: If you want to see what may be the best movie of 2021, one of the best interpretations of Macbeth on film (the best ADAPTION is still THRONE OF BLOOD by KUROSAWA) and see what the hubbub is about.
DON'T SEE IT: If you're just not into the anachronistic dialogue of the bard, don't like B&W movies, square aspect ratios, and that fungal toenail collection is just begging for a proper organizing.