Skip’s Quips: A Skunk Cabbage By Any Other Name

Blog Sketch 082813Wherefore art certain schemes to market the Bard so silly?

Taketh Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, for instance. Or rather, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.

That’s William with a “W.” Shakespeare with an “S.”

And dopey with a “d.” C’mon, who else’s Romeo and Juliet would it be–Irving Berlin’s?

I’m not sure why such a prestige picture needs the added prestige of the famous author’s name in lights above it. It’s different,  methinks for a film like Fellini Satyricon, where the source material’s not as well-known, and the director’s the selling point. But R&J?

I don’t think anyone’s gonna come up to the theater and say, “Drat–I was hoping for Christopher Marlowe’s version.”

In reality, this is just a modern way to tout a vintage, though hallowed, brand. But I think there’s a double standard. You don’t see movies touting Homer’s The Odyssey. Or Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Or Madonna’s Sex.

Thank goodness is what I’ve got to say.

It’s obvious the cachet of Shakespeare’s name lends itself well to movie titles … or so Hollywood may think. Yet his lilies don’t need the gilding. The Bard’s greatest works speak for themselves and lack the pretension artificially ascribed to them by application of marketing nomenclature. Frankly, if the studios want to reach a new audience with R&J every decade or so, they should concentrate on casting it better and giving it a less-flashy director. (It remains to be seen how Carlo Carlei’s Romeo & Juliet will fare, though I suspect it can’t be worse than Luhrmann’s iteration.)

My concern, then, isn’t whether a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It’s whether today’s filmmakers think so.

I hope they do.

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