Pacino's approach to performance--ferreting out hidden meaning, coaxing and listening to others--is far removed from what we see in another Film Festival offering, filmmaker Amy Tinkham's This Acting Thing. Full of anger toward the profession, the film ridicules actors mercilessly via characters who are self-absorbed, emotional and childish to the extreme. Wanting to be an actor or movie star is not the same thing as wanting to act. But Tinkham doesn't get it. She has no love for the profession itself and no sense of what it means to penetrate character or to love the language and intelligence of an author. There are some dazzling moments of ego and of self-mockery in Pacino's film, too. The difference is that Pacino takes the work more seriously than he takes himself.
So does Trevor Nunn, whose Twelfth Night is another successful transition from stage to screen. Unlike Branagh and Pacino, Nunn embraces the most perfect naturalism he can among his performers. He chooses to interpret this comedy of mistaken identity with more tender mercies than are really necessary (a broader comic style suits the subject better), but his strong directorial hand still brings it all together gracefully.
Nunn has cut the play up a bit, choosing the old parallel editing style of Hollywood to show that two scenes are going on at the same time. He has made poor old Malvolio, the tattletale servant, pathetic instead of absurd and pompous, and he underscores the gender-bending of the plot to comment a little more pointedly on contemporary feminist and gay issues. And it works. We don't laugh as heartily as we might, but everything makes perfect sense and is beautifully realized.
On screen or off, the play is still the thing. Guys like Nunn and Pacino prove it once again.
The Denver International Film Festival, at the Continental and AMC Tivoli 12 theaters, from October 17 through October 24, 321-