Directed by Al Pacino

Starring Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, Estelle Parsons and Aidan Quinn. With Sir John Gielgud, Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Kevin Klein.

This film is on the Best of 1996 list.

"Looking for Richard"

Opened: October 25, 1996 | Rated: PG-13

"Looking for Richard" will undoubtedly live forever in English Lit classes, but in the classroom it won't captivate quite the way it does on the big screen.

Directed by Al Pacino, this film is a Shakespeare primer that dissects The Bard's "Richard III" by analyzing it in detail, rehearsing it with modern speech and performing it with all kinds of name actors lending themselves to the rolls.

Cameras follow Pacino and his production team as they plan their presentation of "Richard" to a contemporary audience that would at best struggle with Shakespeare's works and at worst ignore them.

The story, of a Machiavellian royal who plots his assent to the throne through seduction, betrayal and the murders of his brother and nephews, is played out in bits as it is narrated by Pacino, other knowledgeable thespians and scholars he interviewed for the film. These include Kevin Klein, Kenneth Branagh, Sir John Gielgud, James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, to name a few.

The scenes staged for the movie are as rich as any theater production and have the added advantage of being played out in church towers and castles by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder and Pachino himself as the devilish, crippled Richard.

"Looking for Richard," is smartly and swiftly edited to strike a balance between the three stories -- "Richard III" itself, a documentary about the play, and the making of "Looking for Richard." It dives into detail -- explaining exactly what iambic pentameter is and why Lady Anne is almost invariably played by a much older woman than the part calls for -- without losing those who might already be versed in Shakespeare.

A dedicated work from the passion of one of America's better actors (whose ego gets in the way only occasionally), it will serve to wake many a insipid teenager to the joys of Shakespeare in years to come. In that regard it's almost a pity it's shot so much in the big screen vein.

My only complaint -- and this drove me to distraction -- why did Pacino's look change from clean-shaven to darkly bearded to unkempt salt-and-pepper facial hair during the filming of this movie? With all the back and forth it's unnerving to see him looking so different from clip to clip.

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