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Through the 'Looking' Glass

By Lloyd Rose
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 25, 1996

"I’m not king. I want to be king. It’s that simple." Al Pacino, in "Looking for Richard," is speaking of his role as Richard III, Shakespeare’s murderous, humpbacked Plantagenet who hacks his way through the play that bears his name—and maybe it isn’t exactly that simple. But why quibble? "Looking for Richard," which Pacino also co-wrote and directed, is an astute, funny, loving and occasionally even beautiful documentary about actors preparing to do a play.

The movie is loose and even a little goofy, with Pacino making his first appearance, all in black, on an urban basketball court. The actors squabble and joke and try things that don’t work.

The cast includes Kevin Spacey as Buckingham, Alec Baldwin as Clarence, Aidan Quinn as Richmond, Estelle Parsons as Queen Margaret and Winona Ryder as Lady Anne. There are interviews with each cast member, as well as with a contingent representing the Brit Establishment—John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Kenneth Branagh, etc. They generously stress that Americans can do Shakespeare, and "Looking for Richard" certainly bears them out, though it’s still obvious that technical training counts for something: Both Quinn and Baldwin are vocally overpowered by the rigorous, beautiful verse they speak.

Seventeen years ago, Pacino did a famously dreadful Richard III on Broadway. He more than redeems himself here. Not only is his performance impressive, he must have contributed ideas to the staged scenes within the film: the tense, painful lead-up to Clarence’s stabbing; the ardent, convincing wooing of Lady Anne; the shot of Richard wandering all alone in a hilly expanse of high grass, searching vainly for a horse. "Scarface" fans can give this a miss, but anyone who’s been waiting since "The Godfather Part II" for Pacino to prove again what an actor he is will be delighted.

LOOKING FOR RICHARD (PG-13) — Contains staged violence.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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