Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Miller Time

We watched the BBC Shakespeare series's King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller. This is the last in the series that Miller directed. In all, it paled in comparison to my memories of the Olivier version, shot just six months after Miller's.
I mention this in a previous post, but I feel like here, Miller largely failed to use the tools of filmmaking in shooting this play. The camera was far too static for far too long. Michael Hordern's Lear played most of an entire scene facing "upstage". And in the storm, the framing was so tight and static that the Fool delivered a few lines completely off camera. Did the cameraman fall asleep?
It's easy to understand Miller's reluctance to cut from angle to angle, given his background in the theatre. And I'm sure the limited budgets and scheduling made one tempted to just "let it play" and "not interrupt a good thing" once it got going. But you can't just point cameras at a good play, and end up with a good film. It's a different medium altogether.
I think very highly of Jonathan Miller, and cherish the opportunity I had, however brief, to work with him in Houston Grand Opera's "Mikado" back in 1989. I'm quite eager to view his TV film of Alice in Wonderland, to see his approach to filmmaking when there's no theatrical precedent to follow.

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