Movie wonder

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
I couldn't believe we had seen the same film. Robin Buss's review of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet (TES, April 18) was so dour: the film I saw was magnificent. Scenes were charged with contemporary allusions that a film-educated audience would instantly recognise.

Mr Buss naively asks whether clothes and style could be good enough reason for gang war between Montagues and Capulets. For many kids it is the only reason. Where has he been?

The chorus was in the style of a news bulletin, which launched the film into a breathtaking El Mariachi-style all-action rumble. My jaw dropped in admiration at the sheer audacity and energy.

The whole roller-coaster ride was beautifully paced, and the film's setting of Mexico City provided a heated and sensual backdrop.

Leonardo di Caprio is about 19, and looks younger, but I've never seen Romeo acted with more allure. He played off difficult adult emotions against a charming goofiness: the man to child, all lanky arms and legs, tripping over his feet. And the pain he shows is so raw and overwhelming.

Clare Danes as Juliet had a difficult task not to be upstaged by the brilliant di Caprio, but she soared through: articulate, sweet and passionate.

Perhaps three or four years older than Juliet, and so real in jeans or angel wings, her Shakespearian language sounded simple and clear. Watch for her name in the future.

And Mercutio, "a mincing queen". Hardly! Not in the film I saw. Sure, in the Capulet party scene, a grotesque fancy dressRoman orgy, Mercutio is in drag. But he is mad, bad and dangerous to know, his frustrated energy spilling into violence. Mercutio is a favourite character of mine, but I love Harold Perineau's audacious and compelling interpretation.

Take your class, any class. Go now. See it on the big screen. But see it first by yourself, so you don't cry in front of your students.

And they will love it, too. One 13-year-old from my drama group has seen it five times. You wouldn't get me setting through the pastel version of Romeo and Juliet by Zefferelli five times - or even once.

This movie is a masterpiece. Spoil yourself.

JANE WEST

10 Jade Close Beckton London E16

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