MT VOID 11/01/96 (Vol. 15, Number 18)

MT VOID 11/01/96 (Vol. 15, Number 18)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 11/01/96 -- Vol. 15, No. 18

Table of Contents

Upcoming Meetings:

Unless otherwise stated, all meetings are in the Middletown cafeteria Wednesdays at noon.

  DATE                    TOPIC

(no meetings scheduled)

Outside events:
The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second
Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for
details.  The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third
Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  908-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  908-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  908-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  908-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  908-957-2070
Backissues available at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

Film Festival:

It has been a while since we have had a film festival, and I think that it is time again. The film we will be showing this time is one that was on my mind several times while I was in Japan and one I would like to see again. As it happens it also is a very good film by a very good filmmaker. To be accommodating the film will be shown on a new night for festivals, on Monday, November 11. We will run the film at 7:30 to give people a chance to have a leisurely dinner before the film.

KAGEMUSHA (1980) dir. by Akira Kurosawa

The year is 1575 and Japan is torn with the civil wars that would eventually end with the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 dramatized in the novel SHOGUN. Two rival clans vie for power in Japan: Oda Nobunaga commands the Oda Clan, Takeda Shingen commands the Takeda Clan. Shingen is so respected by his troops that the mere sight of him watching over a battle will inspire them to victory. A scoundrel is saved from the executioner when it is realized he is an exact double for Shingen and could be useful. The Takeda Clan has nearly accomplished its goals when Shingen is killed. What is needed now is someone to inspire the troops who can stand in and look just like Shingen. The scoundrel is asked to become Shingen and is trained in the ways of literally being Shingen. But how effectively can he maintain the ruse. The name KAGEMUSHA means "The Shadow Warrior,"--the double for the original. The film has some of Kurosawa's best feudal battle scenes and culminates with a recreation of the famous battle of Nagashino. This is a historical film to rank with some of the best made in the West.

I like Kurosawa's films very much, particularly the ones that have such excellent period detail, and this is my personal favorite. Most critics, I think prefer Kurosawa's RAN (1985), but I notice as I am writing this that Leonard Maltin gives RAN three and a half stars and gives KAGEMUSHA a full four stars, his highest rating. [-mrl]


(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: LOOKING FOR RICHARD is so ambitious that it works better as a partial failure than most films do that are successes. This is a pseudo-documentary about the making of what I take to be a non-existent film adaptation of Shakespeare's RICHARD III and the discussions of the material as the actors prepare. There is the discussion of Shakespeare and of RICHARD III, interspersed with seeing how the actors actually do the scenes. LOOKING FOR RICHARD makes an engrossing companion piece to last year's wonderful film production of RICHARD III with Ian McKellen. The discussion opens up the play RICHARD III and indeed all of Shakespeare and gives us an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at the actors' craft. Director and star Al Pacino falls down only in being a bit to self-indulgent and in allowing this to become a vanity piece with too many diversions into arguments and clowning around on and off set. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)

With a remarkable number of Shakespeare plays being made into films recently, LOOKING FOR RICHARD, directed, co-produced, and co- written by Al Pacino, could not have been more timely. There have been many films about the activity of making films, but to my knowledge this is the first film about the making of a Shakespeare film. It gives real insight into the richness and complexity of Shakespeare's writing as well as into the filmmaking process. Pacino's film seamlessly bounces between real documentary and scenes of the fictitious production of an all-star version of RICHARD III. Meanwhile not just the actors in the supposed film (Al Pacino, Harris Yulin, Penelope Allen, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Estelle Parsons, Winona Ryder, and Aiden Quinn), but also guests not in the film--like Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, James Earl Jones, Rosemary Harris, Peter Brook, Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud, and Vanessa Redgrave--talk about the content of Shakespeare and the art of acting Shakespeare. To have all these people in one film is remarkable in itself. To get them all talking about a subject like Shakespeare is wonderful. To then waste so much time watching Pacino clown around as much as he does is agonizing. Indeed, Pacino as a director just does not know when to say no to Pacino the actor. After last year for me now the definitive Richard will be Ian McKellen. To see Pacino overpowering the role of Richard as he overpowers so many of his roles is almost painful. There are places that the plotting of the film is inconsistent. For example, apparently the actors are making no more than a film version of the play, but at one point Pacino argues with the adaptation's putative director as to whether they should have an expert discussing the play looking into the camera. Pacino's allusions to his other films amount almost to product placements--at one point he refers to a scene of the play as the "meeting of the Dons," he wears a cap that says "Scent of a Woman," and intentionally or not RICHARD III has rather obvious plot parallels to SCARFACE. The positives of LOOKING FOR RICHARD would dwarf the negatives if it were not for the latter taking too much precious time.

Pacino's feature-length discussion of Shakespeare also makes some telling points about the people who play Shakespeare. John Gielgud's viewpoint seems so plain and simple while Vanessa Redgrave goes off into a rambunctious and pretentious incoherence about the "pentameter of the soul." These discussions by some of the great actors of our time into why the Bard does what he does with language and how his plays are to be acted will undoubtedly be used in the years to come as part of college courses, yet it is entertaining enough for paying audiences even while it instructs. Even the street interviews are instructive and show a range of people from the well-dressed who have never seen a Shakespeare play to one man obviously less fortunate who waxes on about how if in school if we read more Shakespeare we would know how to feel and would have less violence in the streets. The film's playful approach to the classic starts at the very opening credits that at first say KING RICHARD, then fill in the additional letters to say LOOKING FOR RICHARD. It is Pacino's point of view that today's actors are the inheritors of a grand tradition of acting and drama, the centerpiece of which is the contribution of William Shakespeare.

If Pacino's goal were just to make this one play accessible, which in large part it was, I would say he fell short of last year's production which shows more of the play without ever being inaccessible. For the additional insights into the plays of Shakespeare and the acting required in them I would say LOOKING FOR RICHARD is more successful. I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 908-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Hope in reality is the worst of all evils,
     because it prolongs the torments of man.
                                   -- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche