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If you love the movies, then believe everything you have heard about SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE ($30). Without a doubt this is a joyous piece of cinema that is certain to leave the viewer enraptured. However, if you are a die-hard action movie fan, this film may not hold much appeal. But then again, since SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was good enough to win a total of seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), it just may win over some action fans as well.

The plot of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is a fictionalized account of how immortal Bard of Avon came to write one of his greatest plays. The Academy Award winning screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard takes a subject that could be as dusty and dry as a four hundred-year-old parchment and turns it into a passionate and witty romantic comedy. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE finds a very young and totally broke Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) bereft of ideas and in need of a new muse to inspire him. Usually, bedding down with any fair maid is all that is required to break Will's writer's block.

However, instead of getting his juices flowing in the usual manner, Will finds himself drawn into a romance the Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). The passionate affair between Will and Viola gives him the inspiration to write one of his most romantic works. However, there are complications, which threaten their relationship, not the least of which are Viola's impending nuptials to a man she does not love. In addition to telling its tale, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE gently pokes fun at the theater, and shows that actors, producers, directors and writers have changed very little in the centuries between Shakespeare's time and the modern age. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE also shows how young Will Shakespeare managed to stumble upon some of the best lines for many of his, then unwritten, plays.

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is a superbly acted film featuring superb performances from every member of the cast. Believe me when I say that Gwyneth Paltrow is not only a feast for the eyes, her performance earned her one of the most well deserved Academy Awards of the last decade. She is as captivating as Lady Viola, as she is while pretending to be a man and performing the lead in Shakespeare's latest play. Joseph Fiennes gives a dazzling performance as Will Shakespeare, making him every bit a lusty young man who just happened to become the greatest playwright of all time. I am a big fan of Judi Dench and her Academy Award winning turn as Queen Elizabeth, no matter how brief, is another of the joys to be found in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Geoffrey Rush is hilarious as Philip Henslowe; Shakespeare's indebted producer, who imparts little bits of theatrical wisdom at all the most opportune moments. The first rate cast of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE also features Ben Affleck, Colin Firth, Simon Callow, Tom Wilkinson, Steve O'Donnell, Tim McMullen, Steven Beard, Antony Sher, Patrick Barlow, Martin Clunes, Sandra Reinton, Imelda Staunton and Rupert Everett in an uncredited cameo.

Whomever had the clout at Miramax Home Entertainment to get Buena Vista to issue SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE as the first 16:9 enhanced DVD deserves more praise than I can possibly ever bestow. Not only does this anamorphic enhanced DVD faithfully recreate the film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio; it is absolutely breathtaking to behold. Every detail of every ornate set and costume is clearly visible in this marvelous transfer. Even within the shadowy recesses of the image, details brim to the surface. Color reproduction is equally superb, especially the natural looking flesh tones. All of the hues maintain a respectable saturation throughout the film, without a bit of chroma noise or distortion. Blacks are perfectly recreated and contrast is sublime. Nary a digital compression artifact is visible on this smartly authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a sumptuous mix that recreates the film's wondrous dialogue with astonishing clarity. There are intricate sound effects within the mix, however they never outshine the dialogue. Within the mix, Stephen Warbeck's lush, Oscar winning score is given equal import with the dialogue, which allows it to wash over the viewer. Subtitles are provided in English.

The basic interactive menus are nice looking and offer access to the standard scene selection feature. Supplements are accessible through the menus and include a theatrical trailer, plus facts about Shakespeare and other historical figures depicted in the film.

Thanks to sumptuous looking anamorphic enhanced DVD, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE can easily be savored at home time and again. Don't hesitate to purchase this wonderful movie on the best possible home video format. Absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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