To Be or Not To Be

Date: 2007
Posted by: fenian47ronin
Cast: Voice by Tamo Noonan
Credits: Produced by Tamo Noonan
Duration: 2.12

Tamo Noona aka fenian47ronin describes himself “writer–film critic, journalist, novelist”. As far as the world of online video is concerned, he’s a producer of reveries into the modern state of things, often laced with passages of Shakespeare. His videos bring together portentous imagery heavily treated with Photoshop and Affect Effects, with unclear music and his distorted voice laid over the top. When it works well, as it rather does here, the effect is kind of a stream-of-visual-consciousness with jazz overtones. The Hamlet soliloquy is spoken with heavy echo, with images of cities, skeletons, statues, basketball players, armed forces, the Titanic, and Noonan himself, and a jazzy drumbeat muttering underneath.

To Be or Not to Be is part four of a five-part video series he calls Empire not Liberty as describes as

five “pieces of work” made in response to the war in Iraq and how rampant consumerism began matching the insane military spending…

So now you know. The other five parts are Othello11tamo, Rogue & Peasant Slave, Drop ’till ya Shop!, and Piece of Work. They’re not going to stop war or consumerism (especially if so few people have actually viewed them so far), but they do show the visual power of Shakespeare’s words, whether heard or half-heard, and the efficacy of using distorted images to portray a world gone wrong.

YouTube page
fenian47ronin YouTube Channel
fenian47ronin website


Date: 2011
Posted by: Prospero
Cast: Prospero (himself), Roxana (Ariel)
Credits: Prospero, camera, editing, piano; music – Penderecki, String Quartet no. 2; Arvo Pärt , Magnificat
Duration: 4.08

A strange experimental work by a photographer (it appears) hiding under the name Prospero. None of his other video work indicates any Shakespearean interest, but presumably the choice of name led to some compulsion or other and to this work, named Caliban. It consists of a collection of varied, seemingly unconnected shots (though some refer to The Tempest, including sea, footprints on a beach, and maybe one of Prospero’s books) overlaid by a modern language dialogue between Prospero and Ariel, in which the fear is not of Caliban learning the language of words but rather that of images (he has been taking pictures on his cellphone, we learn). The weakness of the video is that it doesn’t take this concept much further than that, so that it serves as something for personal introspection rather than something to be shared with anyone else. But, as is the way with online video, we share these things anyay. Make of it what you will.

Vimeo page
Serendipitious Garden (Prospero’s blog)

Prospero and Caliban in the Meadowlands

Date: 2010
Posted by: Mustafa Sakyra
Cast: Carlomagno Baldi (Prospero), Jim Jurado (Caliban), Derek Gifford (voice of Prospero), Don Mayo (voice of Caliban), Paul Strickwerda (voice of Steedam)
Credits: Film by Mustafa Sakarya
Duration: 30.47

Two men, one in 17th century Dutch costume, the other an overweight and shirtless figure with dark glasses and video controllers hanging about his neck, are found underneath a road bridge in the deserted space of New Jersey known as the Meadlowands. The costumed man sits at a table, a pile of books and a tape player beside him on a table, listening through headphones. He spray paints messages in Dutch, while the other man underlines phrases in planning documents that are plastered over the bridge’s pillars alongside pornographic images. They walk through greenery. They find insects. A collage of sounds plays throughout, mostly quotations from The Tempest, but also snatches of Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the works of Dutch poet and New Amsterdam colonialist Jacob Steendam, and assorted pieces of music. They say not a word, but their words are spoken for them. Planes occasionally fly overhead.

What is going on here? The filmmaker tells us that this is a

mash up of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the 911 attacks and Dutch colonialism. After surgically editing Shakespeare’s text, I added an audio collage of references – all of this to surface some of the play’s many subtexts.

So it is a critique of colonialism of some kind, with a hint of retribution to come.The man in the frock coat is Prospero, the man with the video controllers is Caliban, and the island that they occupy is New Amsterdam, the colony on the tip of Manhattan island that was to grow into New York. Maybe we are seeing Prospero and Caliban alone on the island before the others came, maybe they experience the narrative of Shakespeare’s play through their headphones. It is hard to say.

The Tempest is frequently understood as a commentary on colonialism, but what exactly the point being made here is unclear. The video expects the viewer to pick up from the welter of visual and aural references thrown into the mix, yet it doesn’t really signify anything. That’s a shame, because with a clearer exposition and less maladroit technique it could have been quite interesting for what it wants to say about American past and present seen through the prism of Shakespeare’s play. The weakness is that we do not end up thinking about the state of America, but rather about what on earth the passers-by in their cars must have made of these two quaint figures and the camera operator earnestly filming them beside the highway. But it is undoubtedly different, and merits seeing on that account alone.

This title was first published on YouTube in 2008 as a 2 minute extract, when it was originally added to BardBox, then as the film 30-minute film in 2012. It is dated 2010 on the Internet Movie Database.

YouTube page

Oberon v Titania

Date: 2009
Posted by: chrisnatti
Cast: Borts Minorts (Oberon), Ball Ball Minorts (Titania), Bonestein (Titania fairy dancer), Skin Jones (Oberon fairy dancer)
Credits: A Chris Carlone Creation
Duration: 3.03

Now here’s something to stop you in your tracks. Borts Minorts is a New York performance artist/dancer/musician, real name Chris Carlone, who with his like-minded cohorts combines performance art with avant garde music, pantomime and off-the-wall dance to create an exuberant brew of pure artistic energy. Add Shakespeare into the mix and the results are compelling.

And so we have Oberon v Titania, an open-air assault on Shakespeare’s characters with wild dancing amid the trees, done to the accompaniment of a mad mix of tortured guitar and trombone, and intercut with a concert of the same song (there are words, largely indecipherable). Borts Minorts himself is Oberon, dressed in the white ski suit that is his customary costume. Ball Ball Minorts (his sister, apparently) plays Titania. The how and why of it are a little difficult to determine, but it is pure Dada.

YouTube page
HD YouTube version
Bort Minorts’ MySpace


Date: 2009
Posted by: lavamatic
Cast: not visible
Credits: Made by Jeffrey Weeter
Duration: 5.14

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but it’s different and quite hypnotic. The filmmaker (Chicago-based intermedia artist and audio engineer Jeffrey Weeter) has taken sequences from the 1910 Italian silent film Re Lear (King Lear), and then zoomed in on action from the edges of the frame only, so that all you see are feet and the hems of cloaks. The mysterious action is interspersed with titles that read ‘something selfish’, ‘something similar’, ‘something scandalous’ etc., while fitful pieces of music play over the top. It is something rich and strange. Weeter tells us:

“Lear” is a different look. It focuses the information analyzed in the periphery. A narrative unfolds as threads of content are connected and pattern is established. Where there is compression there is also expansion. It is looking at you, vast-expanse-of-art-and-technology-across-history.

Well, I’m not sure that any narrative unfolds at all, still less that compression means expansion. But the sheer elusive of the exercise exerts a real fascination, and it shows how interesting Shakespeare can become in a filmmaker’s hands when they do not feel compelled to tell a story.

Vimeo page
Jeffrey Weeter

My Dinner with André the Giant

Date: 2007
Posted by: Alex Itin
Credits: Created by Alex Itin
Cast: none
Duration: 2.02

American painter and experimental filmmaker Alex Itin is a member of The Future of the Book, “a small think-and-do tank investigating the evolution of intellectual discourse as it shifts from printed pages to networked screens”. With his starting point the celebrated Wallace Shawn play (and Louis Malle film) My Dinner with André (1981), in which two men debate a wide range of cultural themes over a meal, Itin creates a sampled video by associations. He describes his film thus:

The video is my play on Wallace Shawn and Shakespeare along the way to Orson Welles doing Lear and Mobydick… The drawing of what seems to be Italy with Chinese is from Imagination in The Library. I think he hails from China. The kicked by Sexy Italian Boot Sicily is from my brush wiping page next to the moby ink pot. It’s random, but I thought sort of pretty. It is from the pages of an old book on chess strategy. The Chinese say, “Life is Chess (war); Living is strategy and tactics”.

Also buried within lies the witch from Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (based on Macbeth), alongside Brando in Apocalypse Now, The Third Man, The Kinks, and who knows what else besides (the background pages come from Moby Dick via an earlier Itin video – he recycles his own material as well as that of others). It’s an absurdist delight, with a magnificent title (André the Giant was a wrestler and actor popular in America) and a sublime closing dissolve from camera in the hand to skull in the hand. Sometimes movies should only be like this.

Another Green World (‘remix’ of some of the same footage)
IT IN place
Vimeo page