Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Movie Review: As You Like It

As You Like It
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Kevin Kline, Bryce Dallas Howard, Brian Blessed
Released 2006, Rated PG

Once, in high school, I was part of a Shakespeare production. King Lear, to be exact. I was a second understudy for evil daughter Regan, and got a couple of bit parts as well. As I wasn't a drama kid and sort of fell into the parts, I had no idea what creativity lurked in the hearts of high-school directors.

Like the Disco Inferno Chicken Wire set.

We knew we were going to attempt a "futuristic" take on King Lear, but when we all came in to see the finished set, we were greeted by a collection of large boxes and mini "towers" covered in tin foil, wrapped in chicken wire and with red lights shining up through them.

You could argue a lot of things about the future, but we were all pretty sure it wasn't going to look like that.

So, why am I rambling about high school?

Well, the 2006 movie adaptation of the Bard's play As You Like It may be a fine work of Shakespearian acting, but the costuming approach feels like Disco Inferno all over again.

Director Branagh's idea was to take the story out of Europe and drop it into 19th-century Japan. There are some pretty costuming moments early on, like the juxtaposition of Western bustle dresses with painted screens, but fairly soon it descends into cheesy mistakes that suggest the costumer's research into Japanese clothing was about ten minutes spent on the Internet.

Some of the more notable mistakes are women with chopsticks in their hair, no obi knots at all on the back of kimono, and men wearing women's kimono at the end of the movie (watch for the long, black-patterned ones. Those are called "kurotomesode", and are the most formal garments for married women. Men would never, ever wear them unless they were cross-dressing).

If you're willing to squint and not focus on the mistakes, As You Like It is a soft, pretty movie and a different take on Shakespeare, but definitely not a look into 19th-century Japan. Whether that moves it up or down on your movie wishlist is up to you!

1 comment:

Kelly Maple said...

LOL! You've got to love accidental cross-dressing! XD

Another movie set in Japan which my Mom bought the other day, is 'The Ramen Girl'. It's not too bad if you can overlook Brittany Murphy's entire existence, the fact that her love interest is played by a Korean, and the suggestion that there's a degree of magic involved in making ramen. It offers an interesting look at Japanese culture nonetheless.