Taymor’s latest Shakespeare film, shot by her “Frida” cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, combines her 2014 acclaimed Brooklyn live theater production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with hand-held close-up filming. (See video highlights of my onstage Q & A with her below.)
Shakespeare is Julie Taymor’s touchstone. She comes back to him not only in countless stage productions but on film as well, from the exhilarating visual and violent “Titus” with Jessica Lange and Anthony Hopkins to Helen Mirren’s incomparable take on Prospero in “The Tempest.” Taymor also loves the Beatles (“Across the Universe”), Frida Kahlo (“Frida”), “The Lion King” (the $1 billion-grossing Tony-winning musical), opera (Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” life partner Elliot Goldenthal’s “Grendel”) and her swooping version of the Broadway hit “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”–for which she successfully sued to get royalties.
Somehow Taymor managed to mount this last-minute movie with only two day’s prep. She deployed multiple cameras at different positions through the last four shows, and then went hand-held and up-close during day performances. Taymor used no visual effects.
Finally comes news that you can see this in theaters. Fathom Events and Omniverse Vision are partnering to present the movie in theaters on June 22, followed by an expansion nationwide. Produced by Ealing Studios and Londinium Films, in association with Theatre for a New Audience Producers, Lynn Hendee and Ben Latham-Jones joined forces with Taymor to create the filmed production.
“Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” deserves to be seen for all who missed the well-reviewed Brooklyn stage production. This “hybrid of live theater and film,” as Taymor describes it, is far more sophisticated than the usual Live at the Met, with a rousing fit-to-film score by Goldenthal.
Taymor’s in her joyful element, deploying a team of artists who deliver spectacular stage and film craft, period-free costumes, nifty masks (Bottom’s is manipulated by hand controls), billowing sheets, bamboo forests, and rambunctious pillow fights. Her ensemble of 15 actors, including muscled David Harewood as Oberon and alabaster Tina Benko as Titania, plus 17 fairy children in white makeup and costumes, were confident and often hilarious as they neared the end of their run. And hyper-flexible theater star Kathryn Hunter as Puck is a marvel.