Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which means I’m at the start of a 4-day weekend in which I have no commitments (well, besides the commitment I made to this blog). Being the Introvert-Girl that I am, that’s the kind of thing I need from time to time, though by the end of it, being Introvert-Girl probably means that I’ll be moping about how nobody loves me, and thus need the reminder that not-making-plans was my choice. So I’m writing it down. (That doesn’t mean I won’t end up doing anything for New Year’s Eve, just that I am opposed to making plans; or that not-planning is the plan? I don’t know, I’m being neurotic Introvert-Girl now, so I’ll just move on).

Actually, planning my slacking-off is something that I enjoy doing, up to a point, so earlier today I decided that I wanted to spend the evening with enchiladas, red wine, the copy of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V movie, and my DVD of The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese’s film of the final concert by Canadian — do you call them a supergroup? — The Band). So we have drama from England, rock and roll from Canada, and food and wine from California, which isn’t bad.

As for the drama, I’ve been digging back into Shakespeare’s history plays over the past few months, after seeing a production of Henry IV, Part I over Thanksgiving sparked my interest in revisiting stuff I mostly read as an undergraduate, ten years ago or so. I already wrote a little bit about the experience, in relation to Orson Welles’ film Chimes at Midnight, and I’ve been watching the BBC productions from the 1970s as well. By coincidence, I’ve also had a Monty Python Renaissance over the past couple months, and unfortunately there elements of serious ’70s BBC productions that are impossible to take seriously with The Holy Grail anywhere close to the top of your mind — but good drama will out, more or less, and I’ve enjoyed seeing those. But I am curious how Branagh’s rougher and more modern (1989) take will look now in comparison.

I’ve seen this movie many times, the first as a high school student who really didn’t have a clue what was going on, either in terms of history or language. I’m now coming at it in the context of the earlier plays, and particularly the continuity of King Henry as a character — since he’s the same person, at least in theory, that we saw being a delinquent in Part I and coming into his kingship in Part II. I’ve always found the character hard to like in that context, since following the arc of the first two plays is basically, “Watch Hal prepare to betray his friends and then do it.” I know there’s more to the story than that, but I have trouble seeing past it, and I’m never sure to what extent I’m supposed to. And another thing about Shakespeare — he’s very very bad at the supposed to; he’s awfully good at creating sympathy with just about any kind of character. Even when he tries to do bad, unsympathetic types, they often threaten to get away from him; whereas characters the narrative seems to want us to like can inspire our distrust, especially if their success comes at the expense of more appealing losers.

Because of all that, I sometimes think of Henry V as, “the play that happens after the interesting characters are dead.” It’s tempting to reimagine the play Six Feet Under style, with Hal talking over his big decisions with the apparitions of the father he both hated and lived to please, or the defeated Hotspur (man of action poised against Hal’s man of strategy), or the degenerate but sensual Falstaff. “So, guys, should I invade France because this guy sent me tennis balls?” Henry IV: “Remember what I said. Busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels to keep your opponents occupied.” Hotspur: “There’s a war somewhere? What are we waiting for.” And Falstaff: “What’s to drink?”

So I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve also been thinking about how somebody needs to make a fanvid of all the available movies of the histories to Springsteen’s “Adam Raised a Cain” — which seems perfectly thematically appropriate, to me.

Now, more wine and movietime.

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