Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Elden Henson, Andrew Keegan, Rain Phoenix, John Heard, Anthony Johnson, Martin Sheen
Written by: Brad Kaaya, based on a play by William Shakespeare
Directed by: Tim Blake Nelson
MPAA Rating: R for violence, a scene of strong sexuality, language and drug use
Running Time: 95
Date: 05/26/2001

O (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hoop Scheming

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tim Blake Nelson's updating of Othello to a high school basketball drama has its interesting points, not least of all the performances by Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett and Martin Sheen. Phifer plays Odin, the star player on the high school basketball team, and dating beautiful "Desi" (a.k.a. Desdamona), the dean's daughter. Jealous Hugo (a.k.a. Iago) (Hartnett), the coach's son, begins to plant seeds of jealousy in Odin's head about another player having designs on Desi, leading to tragedy.

The movie was never received well, mainly because it turned up at around the same time as the Columbine shootings and was shelved for two years. But it's a very good film that deserves a second life.

Another to get excited over the two-disc DVD set is its inclusion of the completely restored 1922 silent film Othello starring Emil Jannings. The DVD box doesn't say boo about this milestone, but here it is, in sparkling glory with an excellent, brand-new score. At first I balked at the idea of silent Shakespeare, but the intertitles provide a healthy dose of the Bard's magical language, and Jannings more than carries off the lead role. The creepy Werner Krauss ("The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari") also excels as a pear-shaped Iago.

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