What is Pacino Looking for?
Redemption: noun form of the verb Redeem: 1. to compensate for faults or bad aspects, and 2. fulfil or carry out a pledge or promise.
It is no secret that in Looking for Richard Al Pacino positions American and British audiences, academics and performers as having differing views on ‘Shakespeare’. In Pacino's many interviews about Shakespeare conducted on the streets of New York, the voice of the people responds with ‘boring’, and ‘it sucked’. So, it is from this point that Pacino declares that he is embarking on ‘a quest’; his crusade is to bring The Bard to his countrymen since ‘it’s always been a dream of mine to communicate how I feel about Shakespeare’. But could Pacino’s quest also be addressing what is referred to later in the film as an ‘inferiority complex’? Could he also be on a quest to legitimise his own right to perform as a Shakespearian actor?
Let us examine to whom this iconic star of the screen needs to redeem himself? They are three; firstly to Shakespeare himself. Shakespeare lingers like an ever-present ghost who haunts the actors and performers of past and present. The opening scene of this docu-drama takes us ‘behind the scenes’ in true documentary style whereby Pacino uses the language of the stage, ‘Action’ and ‘This is my entrance,’ to queue the audience that they will be privy to a candid affair with Pacino and his crew. The hand-held camera follows Pacino backstage as he speaks directly to camera but the language, like Shakespeare’s, has meaning beyond the craft of acting. Pacino’s entrance is the first step on his quest, and he is taking the audience with him. His reaction upon seeing Shakespeare as the sole audience member in the theatre is an indication of the challenge Pacino feels he is about to face. No matter how accomplished, he is auditioning for the role of Richard III and trying to find himself as a Shakespearian actor in the context of an American film popular culture.
This is the first post in our 5 Big Ideas in HSC texts series dealing with Richard III/Looking for Richard.