Merchant Of Venice

Michael Radford’s beautifully ornamented production stays close to the original, meaning it winds up with a potentially anti-Semitic ending. I give Radford props for sticking it out: He leaves it up to the audience to condemn the bigotry and hypocrisy of the play, and yet he’s able to eke out every element of sympathy for the complex and controversial Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who demands a pound of human flesh. Al Pacino’s weird acting style is perfect for the part of Shylock, and Joseph Fiennes is something of a revelation as the "hero" Bassanio, in that he instills him with some deeply unlikable characteristics as a needed antidote to his youthful good lucks and loyal friendship. On the whole, this is a winning production, among the best of the Shakespeare adaptations that try to stay true to period. A quiet and affecting score by Jocelyn Pook and a coyly sexy performance by Lynn Collins as the delectable Portia round out this highly recommended film.

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