Sam Mendes is a director of films overrated (“American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition”), underrated (“Away We Go,” “Revolutionary Road”), disappointing (“Jarhead”), and, in one case, at least, great (“Skyfall”). Yes, the 23rd James Bond entry was the British filmmaker’s best film, and one of the finest in the 007 series, to be sure.
But Mendes is equally known for his theater work, most notably revivals of “Company” and “Cabaret.” And after the international success of “Skyfall,” he made the bold decision to opt out of helming Bond 24 to return to the stage:
“Directing ‘Skyfall’ was one of the best experiences of my professional life,” Mendes told British film magazine Empire, “but I have theater and other commitments, including productions of ‘Charlie And The Chocolate Factory’ and ‘King Lear,’ that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.”
It was unquestionably a bold announcement, and a very Mendes one. The musical adaptation of “Charlie” is still running in London, but Buffalo audiences have a unique opportunity to see the Royal National Theatre’s production of “King Lear” broadcast at the Dipson Amherst Theater at noon on May 25 and 7 p.m. on May 26. It stars acclaimed stage actor Simon Russell Beale as Shakespeare’s mad king.
In an interesting twist, it has been announced that Mendes will, indeed, be returning to helm Bond 24. From Bond to Wonka to Shakespeare to Bond is certainly a unique journey, and Mendes is certainly a unique artist. For more information on the “Lear” screening, part of Dipson’s long-running live opera/theater/ballet series, visit www.dipsontheatres.com and www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/king-lear.
Also this weekend, Amherst’s Screening Room offers two very different films about aging. At 7:30 p.m. on May 23 and 24 is the Buffalo premiere of “Redwood Highway,” starring Shirley Knight as a woman who leaves her retirement community to walk 80 miles to the ocean. Tom Skerritt co-stars.
And at 9:15 on May 23 and 24, and 7:30 p.m. on May 25, the Screening Room presents Hal Ashby’s unforgettable cult classic “Harold and Maude.” Dark funny, moving, and featuring career-best performances from Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon, it is one of the best films of the ’70s. And just try to leave the theater without singing Cat Stevens’ “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”
– Christopher Schobert