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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Jan 29 1997
Henry V
Kenneth Branagh's first (and best) movie is his churning, ambivalent 1989 rendition of Shakespeare's great national anthem, Henry V. The young casting in critical parts -- Branagh was 28 when he made the movie, the real Henry was 27 when he invaded France -- gets you to see war as a rite of passage not just for individual men and boys, but also for an entire generation. As conceived by Branagh, Henry is a man who kills his own youthfulness, both by leading his troops in bloody, exhausting battles, and by brutally distancing himself from the old pals he formerly caroused with in an Eastcheap tavern. This emotional molting is as heartening as it is disquieting: Henry knows he can't be a king and a hell-raiser. After the fighting is over, the patriotic embrace he shares with his Welsh countryman, Fluellen (Ian Holm), is as moving (and as funny) as any bond he might have felt for castoff fellows-in-debauchery like Falstaff. In the soaring minutes that follow the Battle of Agincourt, Henry orders that "Non nobis, Domine" and "Te Deum" be sung while he traverses the field holding the body of a murdered boy, a veteran of his tavern days; the film comes into focus as a last will and testament of youth.

-- Michael Sragow

Henry V screens at 4:35 and 9:15 p.m. (with Richard III at 2:30 and 7:10 p.m.) on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the UC Theater, Center & Shattuck in Berkeley. Tickets are $6.50; call (510) 843-6267.

About The Author

Michael Sragow


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