ROMEO AND JULIET
Perhaps the most beloved work by late cinematic maestro Franco Zeffirelli, this lush adaptation gave a much-needed jolt of youthful energy to the Bard’s timeless romantic tragedy.
During his heyday, Franco Zeffirelli breathed new life into the staid costume drama, portraying St. Francis of Assisi as a flower child in Brother Sun, Sister Moon and channeling the explosive chemistry of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew. But it was another Bard adaptation, Romeo and Juliet, that truly cemented the Italian director’s reputation as the king of lavish, sensual period romance. The story of the star-crossed lovers from fair Verona was a high school syllabus staple that had already been adapted countless times by 1968, yet it was Zeffirelli’s ingenious innovation to cast actors who were actually in their teens to play Romeo and Juliet: 17-year-old Leonard Whiting and 15-year-old Olivia Hussey. In doing so, he rendered the 400-year-old story fresh for modern audiences, and the film became a surprise smash with a particularly fervent teenage audience. Utilizing the director’s background in opera, it’s a visually sumptuous and emotionally direct treatment of the story, and a perfect encapsulation of Zeffirelli’s unique ability to marry highbrow literary credentials and popular appeal.
CAST: LEONARD WHITING, OLIVIA HUSSEY, JOHN MCENERY, MILO O’SHEA
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