Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Much Ado About Nothing": Shakespeare, southern California, black-and-white, and gay-looking men playing straight

The new take on William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”, by Joss Whedon, was the film to see on the day that the Supreme Court effectively obliterated DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.  For it is a comedy that has fun with the social value of traditional marriage.
The plot, centered around multi-duchy Italy in the middle of the last millennium, seems odd when transported to modern Los Angeles, apparently around the Bel-Air area, especially neutral when filmed in crisp (digitally projected)  black-and-white.  (The end credits mention Technicolor, almost as if put there by a nitwit). 
Although the story is about manipulated heterosexual romances (with a lot of domestic spying, maybe like that in soap operas, leading here to physical situation comedy), the male cast is filled with beauties, rather like the modern idea of gay men, often dressed in shirt and tie, even when they wrestle.  But the camera dawdles on some of them, especially Claudio (Fran Kranz), making a lot of exposed hairy chest.  Reed Diamond looks like Gabriel Mann (Nolan Ross in “Revenge”) playing Don Pedro, and Spencer Treat Ckark and Sean Maher delight the eye.
Even the script pays heed to male attractiveness, as with a lone where Beatrice (Amy Acker) makes a comment that men without beards (did she really mean chest hair?) really aren’t men. 
The visual effects are indeed interesting in spots, like with Claudio’s diving suit, or the “candlelight” evening procession at the end.
The official site (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate) is here.
I saw this in the mid-evening show at the Angelika Mosaic, before a fair weeknight crowd, which found the movie funny.
The New York Times interviews Joss Whedon:

Some quotes: “Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face; I had rather lie in the woolen” (Beatrice).
“Away to St, Peter for the heavens; he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long” (Beatrice)

“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy; I were but a little happy, if could say how much” (Claudio). 

Picture: That's my own father, in the late 1920's, in California.  

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