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As You Like It - film versions

The most recent big-money production of As You Like It is the production directed by Kenneth Branagh, and starring Opie Cunningham's Ron Howard's daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, as Rosalind and David Oyelowo as Orlando. It is exceedingly good, once you get past his decision to set the play in some version of Japan (probably late 19th century?), but peopled almost exclusively by Caucasians and people of African descent. I suppose the fact that there was a wrestling scene near the start led to "Hey! Let's make it Sumo wrestling", and the rest, as they say, is history.

My favorite performances in this version are Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind, Kevin Kline as Jaques, David Oyelowo as Orlando, Adrian Lester (yum!) as Oliver, Alfred Molina as Touchstone and Janet McTeer as Audrey. What this version does exceedingly well is to pace the dialogue well. The particularly witty exchanges (as in the scene where Silvius, Phoebe, Orlando and Rosalind (as Ganymede) are making declarations) are fast and furious, as they truly ought to be. The pacing in other versions I've seen feels slow in these sections, and I really think that speed of delivery "sells" the humor and joie de vivre better.

There's a BBC production of As You Like It from 1978 that is available for online rental at the Amazon website. You can also watch it online in snippets at YouTube - not that I advise it, really, but it can be done. Brian Stirner, who plays Orlando, has a disconcerting habit of delivering his lines off into some unspecified middle distance, rather than giving the appearance of focusing on someone's face, which I found distracting, but there it is.

There's also a 1936 production of As You Like It starring Elisabeth Bergner (with a heavy German accent) as Rosalind and Laurence Olivier as Orlando. I've only seen excerpts from it, and will therefore refrain from comment, but I understand Olivier's Orlando is pretty good (no shock there).

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