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Looking for Richard
Starring Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Estelle Parsons, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Aidan Quinn, Harris Yulin, Penelope Allen, and Kevin Kline
Directed by Al Pacino

Looking for Richard, the review of which I am about to write, defies all the cliches and Cranky-isms I've managed to come up with over the last few years. So I'm going to call it what it is. But I don't know, and neither do Al Pacino and his producers, because they discuss the question during the film. It's a moot point, for as far as it goes, Al Pacino has done great service to the work of William Shakespeare.

In this case, the work is Richard III, an incredibly difficult play to make sense of if you have no exposure to the Bard. There was a terrific adaptation last year by Richard Loncraine starring Ian McKellan, but Pacino does not try to present another adaptation of the play. Rather, while keeping his stagings set in the proper time frame, he breaks the play up into its components and lets actors and historians guide us in a better understanding of what the heck is going on. Pacino, who has played the lead onstage many times, takes the audience's place onscreen, and allows himself to be taught even as he performs one of his favorite roles.

What is on the screen before us is not a film of Richard III. It is not a film about the making of a film of Richard III. It is not a documentary of the life and times of Richard III. Or even of Shakespeare himself. It is a goulash of all of the above, and before that sets you running for the hills, let me be blunt: If Shakespeare bores you to tears or scares the life out of you, wait for the videotape. When it comes out, rent it. Better yet, buy it. Stop when you get tired. Piece your way through it if you have to, and by the time the credits roll, you will have a greater understanding of one of the most complex works by the greatest playwright this Earth has seen in the last couple of millennia.

Yeah, that would scare me away from Looking For Richard, too. Don't let it.

Even if you will only admit to a passing fancy for William's work, as Cranky does, there is benefit to be found within Pacino's creation, pieced together over a number of years. Included are bits and pieces of his own interpretive staging of the play; interviews with some of the great actors of our time (from Sir John Gielgud on down) about Shakespeare and the play; interviews with real people on the street about Shakespeare and his plays -- it is almost as if Pacino had no idea what he wanted to accomplish until he sat down at the editing deck and said, "Okay, let's finish this thing." What he finished is nothing less than a milestone in the history of Shakespeare.

The cast that he assembled over the years it took to "finish the thing" includes many faces you will know from film and television, even if you do not know the names. I've listed the best known above. That is not to say that the two hours of film are entrancing and spellbinding. They are not. At times I felt as if it were just as difficult to make my way through the minutes in the movie theater as I did when sitting at and watching a bad performance of any of the plays. Now, as an old fogey, I wish I had done as Kevin Kline admits to in this film; back then he brought a girlfriend and necked in the back row.

Here's the problem with rating Looking for Richard the way I normally do, based on what I think I should have paid. Looking For Richard defies that rating scale. If you don't like Shakespeare, you'll not pay to see this. But one day, when you have children, and it's time to teach them in a way unlike the way you, mayhaps, were taught (demonstrated hysterically in the film), then you will want this film. I stand by what I wrote in the third 'graph.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Looking For Richard, he would have paid . . .

$7.00

You may wait. If you do, everyone who enjoyed the big screen show will wonder what took you so long. Looking For Richard is highly recommended.

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