News: Oscar double bill hits the screen

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News: Oscar double bill hits the screen


Thu, 18/09/2014 - 16:31


Al Pacino
18 September, 2014

THIS week, a double-bill focusing on Oscar Wilde hits the screen. The first is a film of a stage production of Wilde’s play Salomé starring and directed by Al Pacino (pictured). The film is accompanied by a “making of...” called Wilde Salomé, which gives us a backstage glimpse of how Pacino started the project to stage the play in LA. It also explores his own fascination with Wilde, and considers the problems of turning a theatre production into a film for general release.

Banned in the 19th century for its supposedly degenerate subject matter, it is described as Wilde’s most controversial work. A tale of lust, greed and revenge, we meet King Herod as he holds forth at court, expresses an unhealthy desire for his step-daughter, who in turn teases John the Baptist, who is chained to the dungeon walls in Herod’s castle. Wilde’s version of this story has been made into an opera by Richard Strauss, has had various songs written about it by the likes of Nick Cave and U2, and now has been given a thoroughly watchable Hollywood treatment.

Pacino plays King Herod and looks like he is enjoying himself. He rolls each sentence round on his tongue like it’s a very expensive wine, before spitting it out at you. It is strange to think of him as that same man who came alive in such films as Dog Day Afternoon or Scarface: here we see a more contemplative performance that is a true milestone in his career.

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