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Indy Lifestyle Online
Released this week, Looking for Richard is the first symptom of a plague on all our film houses: hip Shakespeare for the MTV generation. Along with the US box-office hit William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Ken Branagh's star juggernaut, Hamlet, Al Pacino's film aims to show that, hey, even in today's world, the Bard can be relevant, even fun.

As far as vanity projects go it's unusually worthy, a piece of educational cinema that offers audiences a kind of "Pass Notes" to the history play. Donning a back-to-front baseball cap, Pacino adopts the role of populist pedagogue, vox-popping ordinary Joes to uncover modern attitudes to the S-word. Elsewhere, experts from Gielgud to Kevin Kline are consulted, their bite-sized comments spliced between costumed scenes played by the likes of Winona Ryder and Kevin Spacey. All very sincere, all very embarrassing.

Pacino's inspiration for this shambles apparently came from his first love, the stage. (No, not himself). More specifically, his days as a young actor touring the college circuit, seem to have informed Pacino's directorial style, leading to a strong strain of one-on-one workshop evangelising.

As a film actor returning to the theatre, Pacino is in the company of such illustrious actor-directors as Olivier (Henry V, Richard III) and Welles (Macbeth, Othello). Like them, Pacino casts himself in the lead. As with their films, Looking for Richard says as much about the director as the play itself.

"Audiences get lost in Shakespeare," said Pacino in a recent interview about the project, "they can't figure out what's going on." Unfortunately, the Bronx-born actor doesn't shed much light on proceedings. "Looking for Richard came out of my head," revealed Pacino scarily. "It was always something that I was just playing with." Hmmm. Pacino might have done well to work things out a little more before his incoherent musings hit the screen. As it stands, Looking for Richard is less an open door for Bard-shy youth than a good argument to forget all about Shakespeare and go see something we all know Pacino and cinema do well: a good old gangster movie.

Liese Spencer