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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Salome (2013)

Salome (Jessica Chastain), the Princess of Judea, is attracted to John The Baptist (Kevin Anderson) who is imprisoned by her stepfather King Herod (Al Pacino). But as a man of God, the prophet is repulsed by her. But her stepfather is not and, in fact, lusts after her much to the displeasure of her mother (Roxanne Hart). Based on Oscar Wilde's 1893 play which has been the basis of several film adaptations as well as an opera by Richard Strauss. It's a difficult play to carry off for modern audiences as Wilde's florid dialogue rests uneasily on most contemporary ears. Originally directed on stage by the actress Estelle Parsons, Pacino took over the directorial reins when it came to filming it and it is a filmed play. But what Pacino has done is to make the play alive and vital and suddenly Wilde's elaborate prose no longer sounds archaic. At first, Pacino's Herod seems like a mannered acting trick but once you get used to the rhythms of Pacino's performance, it works beautifully and his long speech at the end to Salome is superbly done. Whether as an archival record of the stage production or as a piece of cinema, highly recommended if you're familiar with Wilde's play. If you're not, you might consider reading it first.

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