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Romeo and Juliet(1968)

Fifty years after its premiere, critics and scholars debate about individual choices in this adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, but few will disagree that this is easily one of the most striking adaptations of the play. It was also one of the most profitable. Casting actors closer to the ages of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers (Leonard Whiting was 17 and Olivia Hussey 16) gave the film an air of youthful rebellion that fit perfectly with the late-1960s counterculture. It also made them more accessible to younger audiences, who viewed the film repeatedly. Director Franco Zeffirelli shot on locations in central Italy, using actual Renaissance buildings to give the film a more realistic atmosphere. In addition, cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis (who won an Oscar for his work on the film) captured beautiful images, with dust-filled street scenes and the illusion of torchlight evening scenes that further brought the story to life. After years of directing Shakespeare for England’s National Theatre, Zeffirelli had developed some strong interpretations of the play, suggesting that Mercutio (John McEnery) was in love with Romeo and Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry) was having an affair with Tybalt (Michael York). Although some scholars criticize these interpretations, those choices make the play feel more contemporary and sensational. (d. Franco Zeffirelli, 138m, Digital)

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