Much Ado about Nothing (1993)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Much Ado about Nothing</strong> (1993)

(In French, On TV, January 2019) As I’ve mentioned before, I do have one significant failing as a reviewer for some movies: As a Francophone, Shakespearian English (especially when heard rather than read) breaks my brain. Short bursts of it are fine, but I usually can’t maintain my focus very long on classical English, and it eventually exhausts me. This is why you’re unlikely to find very detailed or meaningful reviews of Shakespearian adaptations unless they update the language or offer a strong visual element to go with the dialogue. Or so I thought before doing something very unusual and watching a French-dubbed version of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing. (When it comes to dubs, I’m an original-version purist.) Suddenly, the language is simply delicious to listen to; the lines are funnier, and I can enjoy it to the end. Of course, it helps that the play, and its filmed adaptation, ranks among the frothiest and funniest of the Bard’s plays. It takes place in a gorgeous Italian estate, where Emma Thompson is cute, a young Kate Beckinsale is cute—in fact, everyone is cute. It’s amusing to see actors such as Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves go for classical comedy, and that makes it even funnier in turn. The cinematography is good, the directing is clearly focused on the actors, and the soliloquies—even in dubbed French—are very well done. I’m not enough of a scholar to determine if the French dialogues are original to this adaptation or rely on an older canonical translation (and this is not the kind of information easily obtained), but I suspect that they are original to this dub and they sound good. If I sound unusually enthusiastic about Much Ado about Nothing, it’s largely because it challenges my presumption that Shakespeare is hermetic. I had a good time watching it, and that exceeded all of my expectations.

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