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The King of Navarre and his three companions swear a very public oath to study together and to renounce women for three years. Their honour is immediately put to the test by the arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely companions. It's love at first sight for all concerned followed by the men's highly entertaining but hopeless efforts to disguise their feelings. Written by
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Triple dedication besides Shakespeare: it also celebrates romantic musicals, lavish revues, and Movietone newsreels
So it is, right at the first frame next to the title, "a romantic musical comedy" is the tagline -- up front with no misconception whatsoever for everyone to see. The entrance is grand in Patrick Doyle's scoring style, along with the credit treatment on red satin and all. What an invitation! 'Like it already. Shakespeare would approve and applaud.
It's truly "there's no business like show business like no business I know." Here Shakespeare and his comedy of errors, a-mixing and a-matching love signals at play again. This common "love bug" (literally so) theme is ever present: in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", in "Much Ado About Nothing", it's all love wires a-blindly and mistaken assumptions a-crisscrossing. 'Tis all seeds of "Love's Labour's Lost."
The outstanding ensemble cast, the charming pairings of the lovers, the song and dance numbers (including a sizzling "Let's face the music and dance"), the costumes and sets, Branagh's script and the "Cinetone News" segments, his impeccable direction, and Patrick Doyle, a vital collaborator who provided the attractive score -- collectively made this romantic musical comedy most entertaining.
Branagh's passion in showing off Shakespeare in film media for all to enjoy is beyond evident. It all seem so facile, yet obviously there's plenty of love in nourishing this dream, lots of labour unrelenting from all involved in this production, and the lost would be Branagh's total steadfast lost in realizing this project -- love, labour, 'lost' shiningly shows. He's out done himself!
If you like musicals, romantic comedies, light-hearted Shakespeare -- go for it. The only special effect here is Branagh's magic.
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