Movie Diary 1/17/2022

The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen, 2021). Saw this at a movie theater – the Rose in Port Townsend, Washington – so I suppose grade inflation is possible. But it’s a compelling, stripped-down version (so stripped-down I would actually like to hear more language), composed in abstract black-and-white spaces. The movie feels like an exercise, like a film school project on the topic of “directing,” but with top-line talent all around. Still, the places where Coen (feels weird not to say “the Coen brothers”) puts the emphases are interesting; the killing of Duncan is a relatively quick event here, but the obsession with succession is the big problem. Sort of becomes just another example of Coen characters being their own worst enemies and screwing things up. Denzel Washington is very good; he tamps down his tendency to go big, in favor of a weariness that makes his kingly bluster look like, well, bluster. (There’s something strangely beautiful about his delivering the “Tomorrow” speech while descending a staircase.) Frances McDormand does a lot with little furtive glances, which is how Lady Macbeth would probably get through the world. Plus – as you will hear – the witches are a standout, all played by the unnerving Kathryn Hunter.