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Bonus Episode: 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'

 January 24, 2022 at 3:13 PM PST
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Kathryn Hunter plays the witch in Joel Coen's "The Tragedy of Macbeth."
Kathryn Hunter plays the witch in Joel Coen's "The Tragedy of Macbeth."
Joel Coen's "The Tragedy of Macbeth" is a tale told by a master.

Joel Coen’s "The Tragedy of Macbeth," currently streaming on Apple TV+, came in at number three on my ten best list for 2021. It’s breathtakingly cinematic and delivers Shakespeare’s play in a kind of stripped down, minimalist fashion that removes all excess props, scenery and even color. For a play whose language is soaked in blood, Coen boldly renders it in stark black and white. His adaptation is strikingly clean and crisp even as it is shrouded in fog and darkness.

Coen, making his solo directing debut sans his usual collaborator and brother Ethan, gives us a version of the play that feels surprisingly fresh. So I’m excited to dive into the making of the film with two of its actors: Corey Hawkins and Alex Hassell.

Cinema Junkie is on a season break but when something this good comes my way I will share a bonus podcast like this. I jumped at the opportunity to interview two actors from the film in part because Coen seems a bit of a mystery in terms of how he works. He doesn’t give a lot of interviews and when he does, I often feel like he’s pulling a con and can’t be trusted to be telling the truth.

But these actors offered some insights into Coen's process as a director and how he brought Shakespeare's play to vivid life on the screen.

"What he's done is pack these visual images into the film; they sort of scorch your retinas," Hassell said. "But they are all born out of this thematic or subconscious level of the play, in a way that folds constantly back into the play and the tension of the play and the interior world of the play or the story rather than the language in a way that I think just thrums with tension."

And good news for anyone wanting to see it in a cinema, it returns to AMC Mission Valley Theatres on Jan. 26.