Gloriously irreverent, deliciously colorful version of the Bard's darkest comedy should benefit from topliners of "Bend It Like Beckham" and "Dirty Pretty Things" playing star-fated lovers in a strange land. Hip score by world-music great Nitin Sawhney, including original songs performed onscreen, will appeal to young auds, and tube-aimed production is well worth sending out into arthouse world. DVD followup should even more satisfying.

Gloriously irreverent, deliciously colorful version of the Bard’s darkest comedy should benefit from topliners of “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Dirty Pretty Things” playing star-fated lovers in a strange land. Hip score by world-music great Nitin Sawhney, including original songs performed onscreen, will appeal to young auds, and tube-aimed production is well worth sending out into arthouse world. DVD followup should even more satisfying.

“Beckham’s” Parminder Nagra and “Wild West” thesp Ronny Jhutti play brother-sister act Viola and Sebastian who, after an off-screen shipwreck, wash up separately on a faraway island ruled by the elegant Count Orsino (Chiwetel Ejiofor, of “Things” and “Love Actually”). The count is hung up on perpetually grieving Olivia (Claire Price), but when he sends his new, campy aide on his behalf — Viola in male garb — her attentions, per the Bard, are aroused by the newcomer.

Meanwhile, Sebastian is making his way across the island, among ruffians and revolutionaries, occasionally breaking into Hindi so he can communicate with stalwart Antonio (Andrew Kazamia) without being overheard. There’s ferment within the establishment, too, with Olivia’s well-named Sir Toby Belch (David Troughton) conspiring with her lady-in-waiting (cast standout Maureen Beattie) to cruelly humiliate overly straitlaced Malvolio (Michael Maloney).

Along for the ride is Feste (Zubin Varla), a court jester who also plays a very nice guitar when singing Sawhney’s Sting-like songs, bringing a welcome touch of melancholy to otherwise hard-edged proceedings.

Identity and gender confusions are eventually sorted out, of course, and lovers are put into proper pairs, according to divinations of God and Shakespeare, with legit vet Tim Supple finding just the right blend of theatrical and cinematic effects. Production de-signer Tom Pye and costumer Jemima Cotter hit a good balance of spare sets and simple outfits that suggest Indo-colonial era with-out really nailing down any particular period.

Lenser Gavin Finney, who also shot Brit-TV’s spectacular “Gormenghast” mini, makes the most of pic’s artificial look to get satu-rated colors on digital vid, instead of going for a gritty film look. It’s an appealing “Night” in every way, and much more fun than the Trevor Nunn version of a decade ago.

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

U.K.

Production

A Projector Prods. (London) production, in association with 4 Ventures Ltd., Channel 4 TV Corp. Produced by Rachel Gesua. Executive producer, Trevor Eve. Directed by Tim Supple. Screenplay, Supple, Andrew Bannerman, based on the play by William Shakespeare.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Gavin Finney; editor, Richard Milward; music, Nitin Sawhney; production designer, Tom Pye; costume designer, Jemima Cotter; art director, Nick Gottschalk; set decorator, Anthony Luvera; sound, Garth Marshall; special effects, Andy Wood; assistant director, Ben Hughes; casting, Corinne Clark; line producer, Victoria Goodall. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Cinema of Our Time), Oct. 4, 2003. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Parminder Nagra, Ronny Jhutti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Burt Caesar, Andrew Kazamia, Claire Price, Vic Tablian, Maureen Beattie, David Troughton, Richard Bremner, Ewart James Walters, Zubin Varla, Vincenzo Nicoli, Michael Maloney, Faz Singhateh, Tom Roden, Pete Shenton, Claire Wilde. (English and Hindi dialogue)
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