‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead'

Starring Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, Richard Dreyfuss.

Written by Tom Stoppard

Directed by Tom Stoppard

Genre: Comedy/Drama (does ‘Shakespearean' count as a genre? Yes, no?)

Released: 1990

Running time: 112 minutes.

Rated: PG.

A strange thing has been happening lately; I've been getting a few comments being posted to previous columns. It didn't ever really occur to me that people would not only be taking the time to read the older reviews, but to post something in reply to them. So, taking a look back at the previous instalments, I realized they only went back a certain distance, before the list cuts out and leaves quite a number of the earlier articles out in the cold.

So, in the name of posterity (and laziness), I thought it might be a good idea to repost a few of those older columns, so that people who are only just joining us now can catch up on some of the Masterpiece Cinema that would otherwise be lost to the mists of time.

Of course, going back and blowing the dust off these old articles and taking a good look at them is a little embarrassing; not that I've come all that far in the year I've been writing this column, but I like to think things are a tad more sophisticated now. It should be noted that I'm known for my wishful thinking.

Anyway, on to the nostalgia…

It was a friend that introduced me to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and I loved it so much that I went out and bought the DVD (not too shabby at twenty bucks). It's difficult to know where to start when it comes to extolling the virtues of this film, so I guess I'll just start where I can.

Based on the play of the same name, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is written and directed by Tom Stoppard. Incidentally, Stoppard also co-wrote that darling of the 1998 Oscars, Shakespeare in Love (a fact that the cover and back copy both proudly declare).

Roscencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is not Shakespeare in Love. I think that bears repeating; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is NOT Shakespeare in Love. If you want a cute little romantic comedy/period drama, with cute little references to Shakespeare's plays and a cute little actress, go rent Shakespeare in Love. If you want a clever, biting comedy that examines themes ranging from the nature of performance to the issue of mortality, get this instead. And believe me when I say, it's much, much better than any cross-dressing Gwyneth Paltrow could ever be.

If you're familiar with Hamlet, then you may or may not remember the two characters Rosencrantz & Guildenstern; they were friends of Hamlet who betrayed him (more or less), before meeting a gruesome fate that takes place way, way off-stage. They were, quite frankly, nothing more than footnotes in one of the greatest plays ever written. But in this, they're the stars - two hapless heroes trying to come to terms with the affairs they're embroiled in, doing their best to keep their lives. The results are hilarious, but at the same time lead to a great deal of contemplation over life, death, and everything in between.

And if that's all not enough for you, it has Richard Dreyfuss, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth in it. I mean, come on! Tim Roth?? Gary Oldman?? How could you have not seen it by now?! Add to the fact that it's the film that made Quentin Tarantino decide to cast Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs, and it really makes you question your film geek status for not having seen it. Of course, I'm yet to see The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, so what do I know?

I would say "Do yourself a favour and go pick it up today", but not only is that cliché, you also don't really need me to. You already know you need to see it. Just make sure you do.

Next week: Computers! Special Effects! Angelina Jolie! (And no, this one ain't a retrospective)