Today, the great film director Franco Zeffirelli is 92 years old. He has created a lot of great films. He is probably best known for making Shakespeare work on the screen better than anyone before him. And it is one of films that I want to focus on: his 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. It is not a play that I’m particularly fond of. But when I was very young, my older sister would take care of me. It worked like this: my parents would have my sister babysit me, and my sister would drop me off at a movie while she went off to hang out with her friends. Usually, the film would be something appropriate like Escape to Witch Mountain. But one night, the only choice was Romeo and Juliet.
I saw the film at least two times — that was the drill. And I didn’t hate it. I think at that age, most things didn’t make much sense to me, so the awkward dialog didn’t stand out. And I knew that it was something I shouldn’t be watching, because I got to see Leonard Whiting’s bare butt and Olivia Hussey’s breasts ever so briefly. I dare say the film scarred me, however. It gave me a very skewed view of what love was all about. How could it be otherwise:
Of course they are both so very silly. But how was I to know at eight or ten (clearly, I did not see it when it was first released). It was very powerful. It isn’t the way that I think women ought to act, but rather the way that men should. And Romeo — long before he meets Juliet — is a very bad role model. So I blame Zeffirelli (and my sister and my parents) for my troublesome love life. But it could have been worse. I could have watched Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry repeatedly. Oh, wait — I did!
Happy birthday Franco Zeffirelli!