Saturday, November 12, 2011

Roland Emmerich: Historical Pastoral (Anonymous)

Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans, Anonymous, Columbia Pictures, 2011.
With a confidence and cadence which can be extraordinary to witness, studio director Roland Emmerich belies his f/x apocalypse roots to craft an engagingly tweaked filmization of the Shakespeare authorship furor. Although I never once bought his patchwork plot, Emmerich alarmingly recreates Elizabethan England in all of its muck and rigor. The Globe, the squares, the palace, and wide angle sky view CGI shots of the great city are all breathtaking.

All particulars of the production are in order. A suspenseful, well written script, impeccable historical detail and an excellent cast round out what is arguably the best film Emmerich has ever made, which is not saying much. A German emigre obsessed with Spielberg, he came to America and made two of the best studio sci-fiers of the 90s, Universal Soldier and Stargate. But then he made a pile of muck including Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C. and 2012. His inclination towards mass destruction is only rivaled by his leaden pacing.

In Anonymous, the helmer has apparently found something to get all sharpened up about. The theory questioning the authorship of the Bard's plays is ridiculous and offensive. The mish-mash of historical persons, places and things is head spinning. Yet somehow, Emmerich pulls it all off. He is unequivocally aided by his top flight cast. especially Brit-character actor Rhys Ifans, who is delightful in the lead, obviously relishing a rare chance to shine. And the grand Vanessa Redgrave, herself, hasn't had a role this juicy in some time. Her Queen Elizabeth comes off as cagey and sly, with her portrayor luxuriating in the limelight.

Shakespeare's England has never before been celebrated in ambiance as it is being trampled upon in history. Emmerich takes the historical and twists it into a frothy pastoral.

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