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The Movie O

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Reinventing Shakespeare is a favorite past time of Hollywood and independent cinema. Acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa transformed "King Lear" for his masterpiece "Ran." Julie Taymor took a blend of history and Shakespeare to spin her fascist focused version of "Titus Andronicus." Fascism and Shakespeare were also re-envisioned in 1995's "Richard III."

However, the most effective reinvention of a Shakespearean text in the 1990s, was Baz Luhrmann's "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet." This modernization hit pop culture like a dagger to a bare breast. It struck through the plate and into the heart. Not only was Luhrmann's reinvention an amazing spin on the classic tale, it was a great film on its' own. Buzz in hand, Shakespeare then attacked Hollywood with a modern perspective.

While Miramax Entertainment has produced a gaggle of adaptations - "Love's Labour's Lost," "Hamlet," and the creative biography "Shakespeare in Love," the one film they tried to hide their touch from, "O," is the closest to Luhrmann's.

Hidden in a closet in the mouse house for almost 2 years, "O" was kept from the public eye because of its' power. In no way is "O" in the same situation as "Rockstar," "Rollerball," "The Body", or "Texas Rangers." "O" was left behind on release schedules due to bad luck and a studio's cowardice.

"O" is Brad Kaaya's adaptation of "Othello." In the simplest of terms, "Othello" represents the conflict between black and white men over power and love. In this version, Othello & Iago are renamed Odin & Hugo.

Odin, played by Mekhi Phifer, and Hugo, played by Josh Hartnett, play basketball for a prestigious South Carolina prep school. Hugo is the son of the team's Coach Duke, masterfully played by Martin Sheen. Odin's girlfriend is Desi, played by Miramax darling Julia Stiles. Conflict develops because Duke pays special attention to Odin, while practically ignoring his own Hugo.

Making a list of what makes this film spectacular is pretty extensive. To start the acting is top notch - especially considering the stars are all rather new to the craft. While Phifer delivers his emotions through intense eyes, Hartnett uses his eyes to hide his evil just below the surface. It is not a shock that Hugo is criminal. It is a shock at how nice he can really seem. Branagh's Iago look like a devious court jester in comparison.




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