Shakespearean film as art cinema
Stage Beauty as a cerebral retort to Hollywood
in British art cinema
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Released six years after Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture Oscar, Stage Beauty (Eyre, 2004) portrays Shakespearean performance history at the point in the Restoration when female impersonators were replaced by actresses on the English stage. Given the similarities between the two films, it comes as no surprise to find that the press response to Stage Beauty made frequent comparisons, describing it as: ‘bitchy half-sister to Shakespeare in Love’; ‘Shakespeare in Love II’; and ‘Shakespeare in Love for transvestites’. Those involved in making Stage Beauty were keen to differentiate its cinematic qualities. The film was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from his stage play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, and directed by Richard Eyre, a former artistic director of the National Theatre. This chapter examines the textual features that mark this film out as a serious-minded depiction of theatrical heritage and gender play, along with the reception discourses that the film stimulated. It also considers possible barriers to cultural engagement with Shakespeare as manifested in ‘art cinema’ with reference to audience research.

British art cinema

Creativity, experimentation and innovation

Editors: Paul Newland and Brain Hoyle

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