Looking For Richard

on October 11, 1996 by Melissa Morrison
   Al Pacino loves Shakespeare, and it shows in this documentary/Shakespeare hybrid that he directed and co-scripted and in which he stars. Pacino plays both the hunchbacked wannabe king, Richard III, and himself, an actor who wants just as badly to infect audiences with his same passion for Shakespeare. As part of his campaign, he shares the screen with other actors who have performed the Bard, both British and American. His intention is to bridge the gap between modern-day America and Elizabethan England: "What is this thing that gets between us and Shakespeare?" he asks. It's a tough sell; he polls passersby on a Manhattan sidewalk, eliciting such responses as "`Hamlet.' It sucked."
   But he pulls it off with a pastiche of humor, costumed action, interviews with scholars, reminiscences from the likes of James Earl Jones and Kenneth Branagh (who's done more for Shakespeare in the '90s than Cliffs Notes ever), a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace and the original Globe theatre site, and, most interestingly, sometimes heated encounters between the actors as they hash out their characters' motivations.
   By the second half of the film, the audience is well equipped for longer sequences of the drama, in which Pacino's Richard schemes murderously for the throne at the expense of his brother Clarence (Alec Baldwin), his wife Lady Anne (Winona Ryder), his sidekick Buckingham (Kevin Spacey), and just about everyone else who crosses his path. It's a side of these actors, who seem as enthusiastic as Pacino, that audiences rarely see onscreen. Starring Al Pacino, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey. Directed by Al Pacino. Narration written by Al Pacino and Frederic Kimball. Produced by William Teitler. A Fox Searchlight release. Documentary/ drama. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some scenes of violence. Running time: 113 min
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