BluRay/DVD Reviews

ROMAN POLANSKI’S film of MACBETH

By • May 7th, 2002 •

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Columbia / TriStar Home Entertainment – 1971
140 mins approx / Color / Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, enhanced for 16X9 screens. Rated R on the DVD jacket, though didn’t it receive an X when released.

Polanski is known to be quite a joker. Considering that the film was Exec Produced by Playboy and Hugh Hefner, there are more unattractive naked women assembled then you’ll ever find again in a single motion picture.

It was the National Board of Review’s Best film of 1971, I had The Projectionist out, and there was also The French Connection, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Death in Venice, El Topo, A Clockwork Orange… But as we all know, the NBR has never been an organization to go for the obvious choice.

It was Polanski’s first film after the dreadful Sharon Tate murders. And there is much gore, and even subliminal footage of a baby being ripped out of a womb. And yet I don’t believe the film is an aesthetic mirror of Polanski’s psyche at this point in his life. If it was, then it was a mirror only of superficial chaos. For what I take to be his statement on that terrible period I would watch the later, more contemplative The Tenant, which I assume will eventually come out via Paramount Home Entertainment.

Kenneth Tynan’s involvement on a script level, like Anthony Burgess’s with Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, whetted one’s appetite for research and period detail, and that there certainly was in abundance. Despite the tales of Hefner pulling the plug in the wake of Polanski’s indulgences, which may account for certain lapses in text continuity, the cinematography is ravishing here – better than I’ve ever seen in either VHS, Laserdisc, or 35mm.

Jon Finch didn’t strike me as someone who could carry this morose narrative, but I was wrong. He’s visceral and effective throughout, and I mourned his ill choices even before he made them, and long afterward. Those were the days, I guess, when such villainy seemed always within reach, and the prizes, just too tempting. Macbeth is a sad tale of provincal, primitive people, and more is the pity – we are still remarkably visible in them.


Credits:
Produced by Andrew Braunsberg.
Directed by the eponymous Mr. Polanski.
Screenplay by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan from the play by Shakespeare.
Executive Producer Hugh Hefner.

Cast:
Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw

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