Salomé / Wilde Salomé

Oh Al.

I do love you, and am more accepting than others of your vanity projects, but this was a curate’s egg of an experience.

Screened to tie in with a BFI Q&A with stars Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain last Sunday afternoon, the event consisted firstly of the 90 minute drama of Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé, then a documentary exploring how Pacino put the play on as a reading in California during the evenings, and during the day was actually filming the drama in a sound studio with the cast, as a way of financing the film.

Pacino has done this before – brought a personal obsession to the screen to share his passion with a wider audience – with varying degrees of success.

The obvious parallel to the documentary is Looking for Richard, where director Pacino films insights into Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Wilde Salomé is less successful – Pacino seems to realise too late that he has taken on too much, complains that his creative decisions are being limited by finances, and comes across at times as though he hasn’t a clue what he’s trying to achieve.

This shows through in his own performance in the actual filmed drama – he adopts some kind of affectation with his accent (which he doesn’t properly explain in the doc, even though challenged to do so) which doesn’t work, and in fact the whole thing has taken 3 years to get to a UK screen from what I can work out.

However, the play is absolutely fascinating, and it is amazing to realise that this is actually Jessica Chastain’s first film role. Films she has made since this one have already appeared before this got its chance, and she wipes the floor with everyone else in the production. She is outstanding.

I love that Al still wants to share his passions with people, but I can see why this one took so long to arrive with us.



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