When shall we three meet again? After taking a year off from indoor screenings due to COVID-19, the New York Film Festival returned to Alice Tully Hall on Friday night with the world premiere of “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, who play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the adaptation of the beloved Shakespeare drama, received a rapturous standing ovation after the film’s first (of two) screenings at 6 p.m.
Apple and A24 will release the black-and-white movie, which is being positioned as an awards contender in next year’s Oscars race.
The screening adhered to strict COVID protocols, as guests were told twice before the movie played to keep their masks on — covering both their noses and mouths. But there were crowds at a bar inside the theater, as people clamored for a free cocktail with Campari (the festival’s sponsor) and soda.
“I want to point out just because it’s a tragedy it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time,” Coen said as he introduced the film, his first directorial outing without his brother Ethan.
McDormand played the role of Lady Macbeth at 14, and again a few years ago at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She asked her husband, Joel Coen, if he’d consider directing “Macbeth” onstage, but he said he’d prefer to do it as a movie.
When asked at a Q and A following the screening why he agreed to play Macbeth, Washington responded: “Because Joel Coen asked me to.”
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Owen Glieberman praised Coen’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play, writing, “[Coen] has made a “Macbeth” that is sure to seduce audiences — one that, for all its darkness of import, is light-spirited, fleet, and intoxicating. It shows you, through the ironic empathy summoned by Washington’s performance, just how fast the human race can slip off the tracks. And it brings that drama into ravishing deep focus.”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” shot in the early days of the pandemic, and had to stop production on March 13, 2020 for five months due to COVID.
“Before we got back together, I said, ‘Joel, we got to get everyone back on Zoom,’” McDormand said. “I need to know how everyone is since the revolution.”
And although he’s Zoom-averse, Coen did make a cameo on the call to talk to his cast.
The film’s after party is being held at Tavern on the Green.