If I tell you that I became a film critic because I found out I could get
a press kit to a Kenneth Branagh movie, then you might understand why I
looked forward to "Othello" with something beyond anticipation.
Branagh would be Iago, the dastardly schemer and as a bonus, Lawrence Fishburne
would be Othello, the warrior who is turned to mush by Irene Jacob as Desdemonda.
Well, it was worth the wait and Branagh surpassed even my expectations.
While set in 1570 Venice, Othello could read from the CNN news: black
soldier marries wealthy white woman over her father's protests. When he
passes over a lieutenant for command, love, jealousy and revenge form a
powerful story. Oliver Parker, the director said, "Othello the character
has rarely been allowed to hold the centre of the story because it has been
too tempting to foreground the Iago character." As the first black
to portray Othello in film, Fishburne glowers and rages, but Branagh can
turn a phrase into a song. So Iago ends up stealing the show after all.