Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead 1990 ***

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Tom Stoppard’s wonderfully literate take on the inner-lives of the minor characters from Hamlet is adapted for the screen in sprightly fashion for this 1990 film which he directed himself. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth display exactly the right kind of chemistry as the squabbling two-some, caught up in the intrigue of the Elsinore court, but gradually becoming aware that their destinies are not their own. Stoppard’s prose has not always been served well by cinema; as director, he gives full vent to the ingenious wordplay; the analogy between death and boats shows his gift for verbal dexterity at its best. Richard Dreyfuss handles the innuendos of the Player King with skill, and while the wordy quality may not appeal to everyone, Stoppard fashions a faithful record of a memorably clever play.

The Romantic Englishwoman 1975 ***

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Early work from Tom Stoppard, adapting Thomas Wiseman’s novel about infidelity and creativity for director Joseph Losey and creating a smart, intellectual entertainment. Michael Caine plays writer Lewis Fielding, who is troubled by his wife Elisabeth (Glenda Jackson) and her romance with uncultured playboy Thomas (Helmut Berger). Caine reigns in his charisma to deliver a sullen, moody performance that’s just right for Fielding, and Jackson does well with her character’s discomfort. Neither a crime story nor a romance, The Romantic Englishwoman is one of the best of Losey’s later works, and might finally reach and audience through its surprising appearance on Amazon Instant.