Much Ado About Something

"OK"

Much Ado About Something Review


A pleasing little documentary as detective story, Michael Rubbo's Much Ado About Something considers the possibility that William Shakespeare was largely not responsible for his prolific body of work. Digging through historical record and theory, Rubbo leans on the venerable idea that playwright Christopher Marlowe was the man, writing in exile from Italy after faking his death. Certainly when it comes to piecing together the ashes of time, there are any number of fanciful combinations to be had. It's a scholarly game Rubbo clearly adores, no matter how farfetched.

Humble curiosity might have been preferable to Rubbo's slightly arrogant skepticism, slanting his interviews to make Shakespearian scholars look like fuddy duddies while embracing crackpot mavericks spinning elaborate conjecture from limited information. As they pore through old documents finding cryptograms in Shakespeare's epitaph, it's akin to decoding precisely what prophets meant in the Holy Bible or Koran: Anything goes.

The interview subjects range from erudite professors to goofball eccentrics, some tentative in their defense while others overcompensating with zealous Oliver Stone implausibility. Some are amusing, most notably the brittle old Marlowe scholar Dolly Walker Wraight whose feeble old frame contains an iron will and argumentative spirit, and classical actor Mark Rylance (Intimacy), Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe theatre, whose shortsighted indications of his own research seem groundless but nonetheless lends a welcome conversational lilt to the formalism of a talking head documentary.

More talk might have been nice, though, particularly for history buffs and Shakespeare aficionados (like yours truly). Rubbo makes significant use of Westminster Abbey and Stratford-Upon-Avon as backdrops, but makes stupefying choices in video recreations of Shakespeare's scenes, poorly acted in that grand theatrical manner that lapses into the very academic elitism Rubbo attempts to avoid. He conversely also panders to popular taste by including scenes from Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare in Love (the bit where Rupert Everett's Marlowe practically outlines Romeo and Juliet for Will in the tavern) and, less aptly, from Elizabeth.

The only time Rubbo finds the appropriate moment for inserting a historical recreation is restaging Marlowe's murder, examining the possibilities of what could have happened. Errol Morris did it better, with more of a thematic point, in The Thin Blue Line, but both films operate as investigations into The Truth.

While there's likely very little crossover appeal to those without much interest in the Elizabethans (as well as rank frustration from those in the know about Rubbo's dumbed-down tactics), Much Ado About Something is an amicable endeavor. It's a house built of straw, but Rubbo lays the groundwork with enthusiasm.



Much Ado About Something

Facts and Figures

Run time: 70 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 13th February 2002

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Himself, as Himself

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