My review of Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is now available on alternatetakes.co.uk. The editors trimmed it down a bit in line with their word count policies. What follows is the slightly lengthier version I submitted, with more of the clauses that I have a(n over-?)fondness for.
Watching and trying to get to grips with Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, one is presented with an interesting dilemma. Either this film is set in the present day – as its clothes, haircuts, cars, guns and occasional pieces of communication technology would suggest – yet peopled with characters who speak and think as though they were living about 400 years ago, or it is set about 400 years ago, yet with the visual trappings just mentioned.
Beatrice and Benedick or Fred and Wes? Or, What does a knowledge of the Whedonverse add to Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, 2012)?
Despite a half-hearted Twitter campaign attempt by me, which never really got off the ground, to persuade someone to screen Much Ado About Nothing in Hull, I had to travel to Sheffield to get my Whedon fix. I went to the marvellous Showroom and watched back-to-back screenings of the film. So that, plus the travelling, was Monday night. Tuesday night has been spent writing three pieces on the film, one of which is this, the other two being a short review and a longer piece for the excellent alternatetakes.co.uk, which will appear on that site soon. Those other two pieces are critical writings in which the first person and the references to other Whedon stuff are held in check. In this more personal forum, I thought it would be fun to see if and how it’s useful to read Much Ado through the other things its key performers have done with Joss Whedon. What follows is pretty off the cuff and firmly in the celebratory mode, but I’d love it if any like-minded readers wanted to pitch in with supplementary or corrective comments. (NB. I toyed with titling this post Much Ado About Buffy.)
Dear Ingrid, we had many amusing arguments together and I was the first one to defend, stupidly, the importance of “great subjects”. I wasted a large part of my life by becoming uselessly busy with “the significance” of my pictures. In Hollywood we also use the word “message”. Today, I regret not having busied myself with the endless, ant-like work of small, cheap pictures of a definite style, like “westerns” or “murder” stories.
In a structure that is always the same, you are free to improve what alone is worthwhile, the detail in human expression.
Renoir in a letter to Ingrid Bergman, 29 August 1949, reprinted in Jean Renoir: Letters. ed. David Thompson and Lorraine LoBianco. Faber and Faber, 1994.
No major US director has yet attempted a Dogme movie, though David Fincher, director of Seven and Fight Club, tells me that he has been having light-hearted discussions with Steven Soderbergh, Alexander Payne (Election) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) about the potential for a ‘purification process’. ‘You’re not supposed to use anything that you used in your last movie – none of the equipment, none of the elements. Steven said, “Look, David, you can’t have any rain, you can’t have any CGI…”‘ Vinterberg is visibly thrilled when I tell him this news: ‘It would be very interesting to see Fincher undressed, because he is always so well dressed.’
Ryan Gilbey. ‘Dogme is dead. Long live Dogme.’ The Guardian, Friday 19 April 2002.