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FallGuide2009

Cheese Danish

Hamlet variations we'd like to see
By PETER KEOUGH  |  August 19, 2008

The play's the thing: Steve Coogan masters tragic irony in Hamlet 2. By Peter Keough.
Hamlet 2 seems like a stupid idea — so why haven’t more directors attempted it? They’ve transformed plenty of other Shakespeare plays. Macbeth, for example, has been turned into Roman Polanski’s Grand Guignol version and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. Not so Hamlet. Aside from Michael Almereyda’s eccentric 2000 version and Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well, no one has really tried. Maybe Hamlet 2 will prompt the following filmmakers to make the unconventional Hamlet movie they’ve always had in them.

WOODY ALLEN | PLAY IT AGAIN, HAM
In an attempt to return to his comic roots while preserving his arty pretensions, Allen combines Shakespeare with one of his funniest movies plus some postmodernist deconstructionism. Hamlet (Allen) is a struggling filmmaker plagued by his father’s ghost (also Allen), who’s nagging him to marry Ophelia (Scarlett Johansson), settle down, and take over the family dry-cleaning business, which is now run by his uncle Claudius (also Allen). Hamlet, however, decides instead to subject Claudius over and over to his latest movie, which is in fact the one we’re watching.

CATHERINE BREILLAT | 120 DAYS OF ELSINORE
The bad girl of French cinema tarts up the original with generous portions of the Marquis de Sade and an homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini. Here Hamlet (Mathieu Amalric) gives up on the Ghost and abandons his plans for revenge. He joins Claudius (Ron Jeremy), Gertrude (Meryl Streep), Ophelia (Asia Argento), and the rest as they close up the castle and engage in a four-month orgy of mounting perversity. A crisis arises when Hamlet draws the line at urophilia, thus setting the scene for his famous “To pee or not to pee” soliloquy.

MIKE LEIGH | SECRETS & LIES & MURDER & INCEST
Hamlet (Timothy Spall), who’s working for his uncle Claudius’s real-estate company, learns from the Ghost (played in a casting coup by the ghost of Sir Laurence Olivier) not only that Claudius is his father’s murderer but that Gertrude (Julie Christie) isn’t his real mother. That would be Ophelia (Thandie Newton), a black illegal abortionist with whom he’s been having an affair and who lives in one of his uncle’s slum properties. Greatly relieved, Hamlet hires Russian mobster Fortinbras (David Thewlis) to bump off his Claudius, shacks up with Gertrude, and evicts Ophelia.

MARTIN SCORSESE | GHOSTFELLA
Turns out that the father (Jack Nicholson) of Hamlet (Leonardo DiCaprio) wasn’t whacked by his brother Claudius (Joe Pesci) after all, and it’s not his ghost who’s been haunting Hamlet with crazy stories about his uncle and his mother Gertrude. Instead, dad has turned state’s evidence and gone into the witness-protection program. Which leaves Hamlet to choose between whacking dad himself and saving the mob or joining him in his new life as the Dalai Lama.

QUENTIN TARANTINO | ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDERNSTERN AND A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE ARE FUCKING DEAD
Tarantino opens the film in medias res as Rosencrantz (Samuel Jackson) and Guildernstern (John Travolta) open fire on Hamlet (Steve Buscemi) and Horatio (Bruce Willis) as the latter gives a foot massage to the former. Cut to Claudius (Ving Rhames) ordering the hit on Hamlet after seeing him give a foot massage to Gertrude (Pam Grier). Cut to the Ghost (David Carradine) ordering Hamlet to avenge his death at Claudius’s hands by giving Gertrude a foot massage. Cut to Ophelia (Uma Thurman), in a coma after being shot in the attack on Hamlet’s father, and the only witness to the truth, wiggling her toe. She will end up killing everybody.

Related: War zones, Fall back, Oscar predictions: Liberal gilt, More more >
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